On the hunt for famous landmarks in Europe
When it comes to famous landmarks in Europe, the list is seemingly endless: The Eiffel tower, Big Ben, Colosseum are but a few. But did you know Azerbaijan’s capital Baku has an amazing flaming tower?
Or perhaps your interests lie more in the natural landmarks in Europe like the famous glacier in Iceland, or the fairy-tale island in the middle of Lake Bled.
Whatever strikes your fancy, one thing is for sure – there is plenty to see in Europe!
Famous European Buildings
Big Ben and Houses of Parliament, London (UK)
Explored by Sophie from We Dream of Travel
Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, sat along the bank of the River Thames, are perhaps the most famous landmarks in London. Nothing quite conjure up images of London like these iconic sights do.
Constructed in 1859, Big Ben has been keeping time in London for over 150 years. A little fun fact that you might not know, is that Big Ben is not the clock towers official name! It was originally named The Clock Tower until it was renamed The Elizabeth Tower to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2012. The nickname Big Ben was first given to the Great Bell inside the tower, but has since become synonymous with the tower, bell and clock.
Alongside Big Ben sits the meeting place of the British Government – Houses of Parliament, formally known as the Palace of Westminster. You might be surprised to read that one of the most famous European buildings is in fact a rebuild. As is the case for many buildings in London, the devastating fire of 1834 destroyed much the original structure. Little remains of the 11th century construction, the iconic building you see today was rebuilt in the middle of the 19th century according to the prevailing architecture of the time (Gothic).
Practical details for visiting Big Ben and Houses of Parliament
While it is not possible to go inside Big Ben unless you’re a UK resident with prior permission, it is possible to go inside the Houses of Parliament. You can book a tour that includes access to Houses of Parliament or check on their website for public opening times.
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Stonehenge, Salisbury (UK)
Explored by Ann from The platinum line
Stonehenge is one of the most famous Neolithic monuments in Europe. The earliest farmers settled in the area about 4,200 BC. They grew wheat and farmed cattle, sheep and pigs. Over a thousand people may have lived in wattle and daub huts. Remains show they had a chalk floor, a thatched roof and a central fireplace.
Around 2,500 BC seventy-five enormous sarsen stones were quarried from the nearby Marlborough Downs and erected to form a circle. Intriguing smaller blue stones were brought from the Preselli hills in Wales about 200 miles away. Were they spoils of war or did a new tribe bring their henge with them when they conquered new lands? We will never know.
Practical details for visiting Stonehenge
- Entrance fee: Entrance to the stones is quite expensive £21.50 for adults and £12.50 for children. Best to book tickets in advance, online.
- Getting there: Many visitors come by coach and combine a visit to Stonehenge with a trip to Bath or Salisbury.
- Good to know: The landscape around Stonehenge is managed by English heritage and visitors and can explore free of charge. You can also get a good view of the stones.
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Binnenhof Palace, the Hague (Netherlands)
Explored by Richard from RJ on Tour
Nothing evokes a sense of European culture as visiting one of the many Castles or Palaces on the continent. These vestiges of by gone days are quintessential European Landmarks. Many a guide has been written about the most famous palaces, but I bet you have never heard of the Binnenhof, in the little city of The Hague (Netherlands).
This palatial complex dates back to the 13th century and was once the proud home of the Counts of Holland. Unlike many other castles, the Binnenhof castle did not stay in private hands but transitioned into state ownership in the 16th century when it became the political headquarters of the Dutch Republic a function that – to some extent – is still held by the building today, making it the oldest parliament building, still in use, in the world!
The Binnenhof is well worth a visit, surrounded by a lush lake, historic courtyards, ornate gates and beautiful architecture. When visiting be sure to check out to Ridderzaal (Knights Hall), originally built with an odd dual function: It was the location where the massive hunting parties organised by the Count of Holland were held and also served as a courtroom. The grounds are also home to the Mauritshuis, an art museum with artworks by some iconic Dutch artists including; Rembrandt, Vermeer & Holbein the Younger.
Practical details for visiting the Binnenhof
- Entrance Fee: Visiting the couryards and the Hofvijver lake (around Binnenhof) is free
- Guided Tours: Take a guided tour of The Parliament or the Knights hall. Prices range start at € 9,5. Check out the various tours available. Tours start at the Visitors Centre.
- Good to know: Visitors must register to access the House of Representatives and also to have valid ID to enter.
– Find the most convenient hotel in The Hague (Den Haag) –
Grand Place, Brussels (Belgium)
The capital of Europe – Brussels – holds more than a few of the most famous landmarks in Europe. The one that will, most likely, leave you picking up your jaw is most certainly the UNESCO classified Grand Place or central square of the city. Upon walking into the square you are greeted by a sea of 18th century guild houses adorned with rows upon rows of golden ornaments. The square is home to two of the most famous European buildings: The town hall of Brussels, and the Kings House opposite the town hall.
An interesting remnants of medieval times, when the square served as the central marketplace, is the names of the little alleys surrounding the square – they all carry the names of food items! Feast your eyes on all the city has to offer, and why not indulge and spend a weekend in Brussels to take it all in!
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Eiffel Tower, Paris (France)
Explored by Fiona from Travelling Thirties
When asked to name Famous European Buildings, the majority of respondents will most likely name the Eiffel Tower in one of their answers. Such is the power of attraction of this iconic building!
It took two years to construct the tower, originally built to be a temporary entrance way for the 1889 World Fair. A last minute decision meant the Eiffel Tower got to stay, and we can enjoy it to this day! While it is one of the most touristy things to do in Paris it is well worth the cue because Paris would just not be Paris without the Eiffel Tower.
Once you have visited the Eiffel Tower, make sure you grab a crepe from one of the vendors and stroll around the nearby gardens.
Practical details for visiting the Eiffel Tower:
- Entrance Fee (option one): By lift (all the way to the top): €26,1 for adults, Free for children younger than 4
- Entrance Fee (option two): Walk up to the second floor (200 steps) and take the lift from there: €19,9
- Best time to visit: Sunset to get a majestic view over the city and get the best chance of witnessing the sky turn 50 shades of pink.
- Getting there: Paris is a very walkable city and therefore, it is quite easy to walk to the Eiffel Tower. However, if you would rather take the metro you can line RER C to Champ de Mars and then there is a short 5-minute walk to the Eiffel Tower.
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Sacré Coeur, Paris (France)
Explored by Ophélie from Limitlesssecrets
The Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Paris is without a doubt one of the most famous landmarks in Europe! The soft architectural lines in contrast with the sharp white calcite stone that was used to build the Basilica, make it a sight for sore eyes. One which, together with the Eiffel tower, dominates the skyline of Paris as it is located on top of the hill named Butte Montmartre – the highest point in Paris!
Sacre Coeur (sacred heart in English) is dedicated to to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and was built between 1875 and 1914. The basilica was built to show penance for the crushing defeat France suffered in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War.
Nowadays this legacy is nowhere to be seen, as tourist flock to visit this famous European building in droves. It is the the second most visited monument in Paris after Notre Dame. This is in part thanks to the eclectic architecture: A mix of Byzantine style and Ancient Roman style, as well as the wonderful views it offers over the city. Simply sit on the steps, right in front of the Basilica, and take in all Paris has to offer. Alternatively you can visit the Basilica and climb all the way up the dome.
Once you are in Montmartre, you can wander around and enjoy the unique ambiance of this little village inside Paris! It’s a great place to buy some souvenirs or eat in a cute restaurant!
Practical details for visiting Sacre Coeur:
- Entrance Fee: Free for the Basilica
- Fee for visiting the dome: €6
- Getting there: The best way to get to the Sacre Coeur, especially if you want to avoid climbing the 220 steps leading to it, is to take the funicular close to Place St Pierre.
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The Colosseum, Rome (Italy)
The Colosseum is a perfect example of one of those historic European landmarks that continues to inspire and contribute to the story of the city where it is located in this case beautiful Rome. This iconic oval amphitheatre was built over 2000 years ago to entertain the masses with gladiator contest, mock sea battles and whatever public spectacle the emperor wanted to gift to his people.
Surprisingly the structure has withstood both the gruelling test of time as well as nature (earthquakes). Over the centuries it served various purposes ranging from amphitheatre to quarry yet somehow 2000 years later it remains mostly in tact and is without a doubt one of the most famous European buildings!
Practical details for visiting the Colosseum
- Entrance Fee: €16 (adults). This ticket includes the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill and is valid for 24 hours.
- Good to know: If you with the visit the Arena section of the Colosseum, an additional ticket is required. Be sure to book a Full Experience ticket which costs €22 to include the Arena.
– Find the prefect hotel in La Bella Roma –
Su Nuraxi di Barumini, Barumini (Sardinia)
Explored by Claudia from Strictly Sardina
Su Nuraxi is a Nuraghe, highly unique structures, exclusively found in Sardinia dating back to anywhere between 1900 and 730 BC and one of the oldest of the most famous landmarks in Europe. There are over 7000 Nuraghe on the island – though research shows that at some point they might have numbered over 10 000. Interestingly enough researchers can’t seem to agree on their functions: some suggest they were used as homes; others prefer to think that they were military structures.
Of all the nuraghe in Sardinia, Su Nuraxi is the most famous one – this is most likely due to the extensive excavation and research carried out on the site. Currently it is Sardinia’s only UNESCO World Heritage site – though local authorities are now pushing for a recognition of the entire nuragic landscape.
Su Nuraxi was inhabited between 1600 BC and the 3rd century AD. It has four towers, connected by a wall, and it is all built of basalt stone (a volcanic stone). Surrounding the main structure is a village with constructions that look like houses, assembly rooms and temples.
Practical details for visiting Su Nuraxi
- Location: Su Nuraxi is located just outside Barumini, a small town at about 45 minutes drive from Cagliari, Sardinia’s Capital.
- Opening hours: The site is open daily from 9:00 am to either 5:00 or 8.00 pm depending on the season.
- Entrance Fee: Tickets are €14 and include a guided tour – several languages are available. Tours depart from the information point and last about 1.5 to 2 hours.
- What to see: It can be easily visited on day trips from the city that usually includes a stop at the Giara Plateau, famous for the unique wildlife. Annexed to the complex there is a great museum that provides more insightful information on the nuragic civilization.
– Find a quintessential hotel in Cagliari –
Plaza de España, Sevilla (Spain)
As far as famous landmarks in Europe go, Plaza de España in the South of Spain is right up there with the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben. The beautiful square dates back to 1929 when it was constructed for the World Fair. The square is surrounded by buildings that were originally built to house various exhibitions during the fair. Plaza de España is not just a square, it houses fountains, bridges, a moat (oh yes!) and intricately decorated tiled alcoves – representing the different provinces in Spain.
During the day, the square is the stage for street flamenco artists, couples gazing at each other adoringly or groups of tourists exploring all the alcoves. The buildings surrounding the square are now in use by government officials.
Practical details for visiting Plaza de España
- Best time to go: If you want to have the square to yourself be there before 09.00, if you are looking to enjoy the flamenco artists performance aim for the late afternoon.
- Location: 20 minute walk from the Cathedral in the centre of Sevilla
– Find the best pied-à-terre for your stay in Sevilla –
Alhambra, Granada (Spain)
Explored by Joanna from The world in my pocket
The Moorish architecture of the Alhambra is Spain is unrivalled in its beauty. This architectural style is known for elaborate geometric motifs in wood and marble as well as elaborate stucco work and romantic little courtyards. All of which and more can be found in the Alhambra Complex which consists of the Alcazaba, The Nasrid Palaces, Generalife and Gardens and the Palace of Charles V.
In the 13th century (the beginning of the Nasrid dynasty), the Moors built the Alhambra on the ruins of an old Roman fortification. The Alhambra consists of both a palace and a fortress which respectively served the purpose of rest and contemplation as well as defensive. After the Moors were defeated by the Christians (Christian Reconquista of Spain in the 15th century) the site was turned into the Royal court of Ferdinand and Isabella. Sadly, over the centuries the building was forgotten and fell into disrepair, eventually being inhabited by squatters until the 19Th century.
Not to despair though, the splendid decorations of the interior walls still remain and can be admired by visitors. In fact, these decorations in combination with the unique Moorish gardens make it one of the most famous landmarks in Europe. Even if you plan just a weekend in Granada, make sure to add the Alhambra to your itinerary
Practical details for visiting the Alhambra
- Entrance Fee: Alhambra + Generalife (Gardens): €14
- Good to know: Tickets for the Alhambra sell out months in advance, so keep this in mind when you book your trip to Granada. Also, make sure you always buy your ticket from an authorized website, such as the official site of the Alhambra (https://tickets.alhambra-patronato.es/en/), in order not to get scammed or overpay
- Getting there: The Alhambra is located on a hill, to get there you can either walk up, which can be quite hard in the summer months when the temperatures reach 40 degrees, or you can take the electric bus.
– Find your accommodation in Granada –
Hagia Sophia, Istanbul (Turkey)
Explored by Jin & De Wet from Museum of Wander
The Hagia Sophia might just be one of the most famous landmarls in Europe and for sure Istanbul’s most iconic building! It is more than a simple piece of architecture. Hagia Sophia IS Istanbul, and the building represents the city’s whole history and character. Visiting the Hagia Sophia should be your top priority when looking for things to do in Istanbul.
Built in 573 as the cathedral of Constantinople, Hagia Sophia remained the largest cathedral in the world for almost one thousand years. When the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople, the city’s name changed to Istanbul and the Hagia Sophia became a mosque for the next 500 years. It was then a museum for almost 100 years, before being changed back to a mosque in 2020.
You can see elements of millennia of history, of religions, of Europe and Asia and with keeping up with the times when you visit the Hagia Sophia. It’s very interesting to see the juxtaposition of Arabic scripts right next to a mosaic of the Virgin Mary.
Go up to the second floor to see the incredible Byzantine mosaics, and the stunning view from the window overlooking the Blue Mosque. The Hagia Sophia is right in the centre of Sultanahmet, the historic heart of Istanbul where you’ll find other incredible buildings like the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and the Arastra bazar.
With the Hagia Sophia being a functioning mosque once again, it is free to enter for everyone, regardless of religion.
Practical details for visiting the Hagia Sophia
- Entrance Fee: Free
- Dress Code: The Hagia Sophia is a working mosque, make sure to keep your dress modest (no shorts or revealing clothing). Women need to wear a headscarf.
– Find a beautiful hotels in Istanbul –
City walls of Dubrovnik (Croatia)
Explored by Kami from MyWanderlust
The city of Dubrovnik is perched on the Adriatic coast and is known for its beautiful beaches and impressive historic centre or Old Town. The aforementioned historic centre has quickly risen through the ranks of most famous landmarks in Europe thanks to its appearance in the iconic show of Game of Thrones. In fact the city was voted most beautiful places to visit in Croatia multiple years in a row.
Old Town is protected by extraordinarily well preserved ancient city walls. The walls date back to the Middle Ages and are around 2 km long, passing through a few gates and towers and going up as high as 25 meters above the ground level. To this day, they are one of the only ancient fortifications that have never let invader in to the city!
Practical details for visiting the City Walls of Dubrovnik
- Length: 2km – Walk around the whole circuit to get the best feeling of Dubrovnik Old Town and the best views over the city.
- When to go: Go early to avoid the hordes of tourists.
- Entrance Fee: €29 (also includes entrance to Fort Lovrijenac located just outside the Old Town)
- Good to know I: Not all tourists walk the whole circuit, therefore crowds tend to gather right at the entrance but the path is less busy further down.
- Good to know II: There are three entrances to City Walls, the most popular and most crowded one is next to the Pile Gate so it’s better to use the other two.
– Find the best deals for hotels in Dubrovnik –
Diocletian Palace, Split (Croatia)
Explored by Lyndsay from The Purposely Lost
The Diocletian Palace in Split (Croatia) thanks its name to the Roman emperor Diocletian, who built the palace to retire in. Sadly, the emperor only lived in the palace for less than a decade, being assassinated soon after his retirement.
This iconic European Landmark is a UNESCO World Heritage site dating back to the 4th century built overlooking the beautiful Adriatic Coast. The original complex was 30.000 square meters, today the remains contain a temple, bell tower, baths, mausoleum, and grand public town square and are still so large that they encompass half of the historic town of Split in Croatia.
The palace is one of the best-preserved ancient places in Europe and to this day is fresh with activity. It contains more than a few shops, restaurants and homes. It has seen a heavy influx of tourists thanks to Game of Thrones (where it served as the setting for the slave city of Meereen).
Practical details for visiting the Diocletian Palace
- Entrance Fee: Free
- Good to know: Entrance fees for the various buildings inside the complex do apply
- Guided tours: Learn about the history with a walking tour or take a Game of Thrones-themed tour to see where the show was filmed
– Find the best hotels in Split –
Mostar Bridge, Mostar (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
Explored by Dean and Laynni from Routinely Nomadic
Located in the heart of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the spectacular Old Bridge of Mostar is a little off the beaten path as far as famous European landmarks go. However, with a fascinating and occasionally horrifying history combined with a wonderful modern ambience and a wide range of unique viewpoints, this iconic bridge should be included in any Balkans itinerary.
Built under Ottoman rule in the 16th century, the Mostar Bridge endured over 400 tumultuous years before being destroyed in 1993 during the Bosnian War. It was rebuilt in 2004 using mostly original materials and techniques and was named a UNESCO Heritage Site in 2005.
Along with seeking out all the best angles for bridge photos and watching daredevils jump from the bridge for tourist tips, Mostar also has a small but adorable Old Town area and several impressive religious buildings (representing no less than 5 major religions). History buffs could spend days exploring the city’s intriguing and often shocking war sites, and for those more interested in nature, there are several excellent hiking trails in the surrounding hills.
Practical details for visiting the Mostar Bridge
- Location: The city of Mostar is located 2 scenic hours south of Sarajevo by car, bus or train and can easily be done as a day trip, although staying at least one night is recommended to enjoy the place when the majority of tourists have moved on.
- Entrance Fee: There is no entrance fee
- Good to know: Both accommodation and food in Mostar are extremely affordable (decent hotel rooms start at just €20/night).
The Hermitage, Saint Petersburg (Russia)
Explored by Ellis from Backpack Adventures
Russia has its fair share of opulent palaces, grand squares and tiny ornately decorated eggs (Fabergé anyone?). It is the country of Ivan the Terrible, Catherine the Great, Wassily Kandinsky and … Maria Sharapova. It houses more than a few of the most famous landmarks in Europe, but perhaps the most interesting of all is the Hermitage, in Saint Petersburg.
The Hermitage is a complex of 6 buildings constructed in the 18th century, mainly during the reign of Catherine the Great who was a voracious collector or art and books. The Hermitage opened its doors to the public in 1852, these days 5 of the buildings (Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage, New Hermitage, and Hermitage Theatre) can be visited.
Inside the museum you will be able to gaze upon a “mere” 3 million works of art including paintings, sculptures and archaeological treasures. There is so much to see and do in the Hermitage that you can easily spend a full day or more in the museum without having experienced all that the museum has to offer. Expect to see works by all the Great Masters including Rembrandt and Leonardo Da Vinci.
The collection is housed inside the opulently decorated rooms which were once private, only to be visited by the Tsarina and family. When walking through the many rooms, be sure to take in not just the artwork but the lavish decorations of the rooms themselves.
The museum is located in the centre of Saint Petersburg with beautiful views over the Neva river. Thanks to the central location, the Hermitage is close to the other top tourist attractions of Saint Petersburg. Just around the corner is the large Saint Isaac’s cathedral and the Nevski prospekt with its trendy shops and restaurants.
Practical details for visiting The Hermitage
- Entrance Fee: 500 Russian rubles onward (book in advance and online)
- Location: 190000, St Petersburg, Dvortsovaya Naberezhnaya 34
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Alexandre Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn (Estonia)
The Cathedral of Tallinn is an authentic Orthodox Cathedral located in Old Town Tallinn. It was built in the late 19th century when the country was part of the Russian Empire, which explains the architectural style and how it might remind you of some of the famous cathedrals in Russia.
In 1924 this European landmark was scheduled to be demolished, as to many Estonians it was the symbol of Russian oppression. Yet somehow, the plans were never executed. Under Soviet rule, religion was banned and the cathedral was left to its own devices rapidly falling in disarray. A thorough renovation was carried out in after the fall of the USSR resulting in the well-maintained cathedral you see today.
Practical details for visiting the Alexandre Nevsky Cathedral
- Location: Lossi plats 10, Tallinn (Old Town)
- Entrance Fee: Free
- Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 08:00 – 18:00
– Find the best deals for hotels in Tallinn –
Flame Tower, Baku (Azerbaijan)
Explored by Kristin from Adventures with Ensuite
Azerbaijan is on the crossroads between Europe and Central Asia and is slowly but surely winning in popularity amongst travellers. The capital of Azerbaijan, Baku is home to a very iconic and thus famous landmark in Europe – The Flame Towers.
The towers were constructed in the early 2000, after the country was flush with cash from the sales of oil. Upon winning the Eurovision song contest a big push was made to finish the Flame towers in time for the event, which was held in Baku in 2012.
Azerbaijan is often referred to as ‘the land of fire’. The symbol of fire can be found on the national flag and was believed to be one of the main sources of inspiration for the design of the – aptly named – Flame Towers.
Today the towers consist of office space, residential apartments, serviced apartments and a Fairmont hotel. Inside the towers there is not much to see. In fact the buildings are best appreciated from a distance.
Majestically located at the top of a hill, the Flame Towers can be seen from anywhere in the city. During the day the towers glitter in the sun. But at night they really come to life with illuminations displayed on the buildings by 10,000 high-powered LED lights.
Views are particularly good from the promenade along the Caspian Sea. However, it is impossible to visit Baku and miss these elegant towers since they peer out high above the buildings and narrow lanes of the old town.
– Find out where to stay in Baku –
Natural Landmarks in Europe
Jokularson Glacier Lagoon (Iceland)
Explored by Antoine and Marielle from Offbeat Escapades
Jokularson Glacier Lagoon is one of the most impressive natural landmarks in Europe. Located on the South Coast of Iceland, seeing these majestic ice formations feels as if you’re looking at something that only exists in another world.
Iceland has been called the Land of Fire and Ice due to its iconic black gravel, many active volcanoes, and of course, these impressive glaciers that take up about 11 percent of the total land area of the country during the late autumn and winter seasons.
These glaciers were formed thanks to the extreme cold and heavy snow brought about by an increase in temperature in the Arctic Circle during the winter seasons. Year after year, they change in size and shapes, but nonetheless, they always look exceptional with their crystal blue colours and intricately fine details.
Practical information for visiting the Jokularson Glacier Lagoon
- Things to do around the lake: Jokularson is a great site to take pictures of otherworldly scenes, catch the seals relaxing on top of the floating icebergs and even, watch the magical Northern Lights come night time.
- Entrance Fee: Free of charge
- Getting there: The glaciers are located 380 kilometres east of Reykjavik. You can join a tour or if you are traveling Iceland on a budget why not rent a car and partake on a self-driven itinerary.
Trolltunga, Ullensvang Municipality (Norway)
Explored by Jiayi from The Diary of a Nomad
Trolltunga is a unique rock formation in Norway that’s become very famous for its jaw-dropping views and stunning hiking trail. Nestled in the Vestland region of Southern Norway, this rock actually has the shape of a tongue and sticks horizontally out of a cliff. The cool thing is that visitors can walk on it to admire the breathtaking view of the fjords below.
To get to this picturesque rock, though, you’ll have to work for it. Although the Trolltunga hiking trail is absolutely beautiful, it’s also quite arduous. Make sure to start early in the day because you’ll be hiking 28 km for roughly 10-12 hours roundtrip. You’ll also be climbing up close to 800 meters, but as the famous hiking quote goes, “everything worthwhile is uphill”.
All along the hike, you’ll be rewarded with surreal views of the surrounding mountains and fjords — landscapes so gorgeous that you’ll find it hard to put your camera down. It only keeps getting better, too, because once you reach the rock itself, the ultimate view awaits you. In fact, stepping onto the rock is such a special experience that you’ll have to line up for it. Typically, the line is around one hour long. However, if you visit during the peak season of summer, it could easily be a three-hour wait. That’s why it’s important to start this hike early; you can reach the destination before the crowd gets there.
The easiest way to hike Trolltunga is to base yourself in the nearby town of Odda and drive to the Trolltunga parking lot. You can reach Odda by car from big cities like Bergen in roughly three hours. You’ll also be pleased to know that there are no entrance fees to this spectacular hiking trail!
– Find your accommodation for Odda –
Giants Causeway, Bushmills (Northern Ireland)
Explored by Annabel from Smudged Postcard
The Giant’s Causeway is one of the natural landmarks of Europe with a curious story. According to Gaelic Mythology, the columns were built by the giant Finn MacCool to ensure he could fight the Scottish giant Benanddonner. There are a multitude of different stories, all with a different outcome as to who won this epic battle.
If you are looking for a different outlook on how these basalt columns came into being, a visit to the visitors centre might enlighten you on the subject. It is filled with interactive exhibits, a film and the exact geological history of the region (spoiler alert: The causeway was actually formed some 60 million years ago by layers of lava.
Visiting the Giant’s Causeway is without doubt one of the best things to do in Northern Ireland and here is no better way to experience it than to walk! Lace up your walking booths and wander around the coastline to the main rocky area of the causeway. The many hexagonal stepping stones are great fun to walk over with the waving of the sea lapping close by. The pathway continues on along the coast and then climbs steeply up the cliff side and then loops back around to the visitor centre.
Practical details for visiting Giant’s Causeway
- Location: North Antrim Coast, 60 miles from Belfast (Northern Ireland)
- Entrance Fee: The Giants Causeway is run by the National Trust. There is a car park next to the visitor centre. Entrance costs are £13 per adult and £6.50 for children. National Trust members are free.
- Alternative ways of getting there: There is also a little train which runs from Bushmills village to the Causeway – a fun way of getting there if you’re visiting with children.
-Find the best inn in Belfast to complete your stay! –
Cliffs of Moher (Ireland)
Explored by Cath from Travel Around Ireland
One of the most famous landmarks in Europe, and best places to visit in Ireland, are the Cliffs of Moher. As one of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions, the Cliffs are visited by 1.5 million people each year. Located on the west coast of Ireland in County Clare, these dramatic sea cliffs are one of the best natural landmarks in Europe.
Spanning 14km, they rise 120 metres above the Atlantic Ocean to the south at Hag’s Head and at O’Brien’s Tower in the north they reach their highest point at 214 metres.
As well as interactive displays, the Visitor’s Centre by the cliffs, has a virtual-reality cliff-face adventure experience. Outside, visitors enjoy walking from Hag’s Head to O’Brien’s Tower, a round stone tower built in the early 1800’s. From the top of the tower, visitors can see all the way to the Aran Islands and Galway Bay on a clear day.
Practical details for visiting the Cliffs of Moher
- Location: These amazing cliffs are located 1.5 hours south of Galway, and just over 3 hours west of Dublin.
- Entrance Fee: While the Cliffs themselves are free to visit, there is a parking fee for the car park and the Visitor’s Centre has a paid exhibition about the Cliffs and the flora and fauna that can be found on them. Tickets cost from €5 for anyone over 12 years of age. Under 12’s are free.
- Good to know: If you are visiting the Cliffs of Moher, then combine your trip with a visit to the Burren National Park nearby.
-Find the best inn in Galway to stay! –
Hallerbos, Halle (Belgium)
Hallerbos or the Blue Forest is a little hidden gem in Belgium. Located a short drive away from Brussels, this forest might not look like much but just wait until spring! During this season the whole of the forest transforms into a sea of bluebells and is truly one of the most beautiful places in Belgium! Although this forest of flowers is one of the less famous landmarks in Europe, it is well worth a visit if you happen to be in Belgium.
The forest is very popular with both locals and tourists. Lately it has become very busy due to the emergence of social media. This has led to many flowers being trampled by overeager visitors trying to get the best picture. If you go, bring a pair of good walking shoes and stick to one of the many well indicated trails around the forest!
Practical details for visiting Hallerbos
- When to go: March to April
- Entrance Fee: Free of charge
- Parking: Parking lot near the entrance of the forest
– Find a beautiful hotel in Brussels –
Verdon Gorge, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (France)
Explored by Kat from Wandering Bird
France is not to be omitted when it comes to famous landmarks in Europe: The Eiffel Tower, the castles in the Loire valley and even the lavender fields in Aix-en-Provence are all firmly inscribed on any tourist map to France.
Often overlooked for its more famous counterparts is the spectacular Verdon Gorge, the unclaimed “Grand Canyon of Europe”. This gorge is a whopping 21 kilometres long, 700 meters deep and in some places as wide as 100 meters. It is the result of centuries of water rushing against the limestone and carving a veritable path through it.
The Verdon Gorge is a mecca for rock climbers, canoeists, hikers and adventure seekers and a wide range of activities is on offer. Don’t miss the chance to hire a boat or canoe and get out on that incredible turquoise water.
The canyon is best explored by car or motorhome- it’s not easy to see by public transport although bus tours are offered. There are plenty of hotels, BnBs and campsites around although, if you enjoy wild camping with a motorhome in France, you might be disappointed- it’s banned in the National Park where the gorge is located.
If you drive along the gorge, go early- before the tour buses turn up. You’ll be able to enjoy the viewpoints and atmosphere of the gorge much easier. It’s also easier to drive on those tiny windy roads without big buses coming the other way!
– Stay in beautiful Riez if you want to take advantage of the flower fields too –
Caminito del Rey, Ardales (Spain)
Explored by Linn from Andalucia hiking
El Caminito del Rey in Malaga is one of the most famous landmarks in Spain. The jaw-dropping walking path hangs hundred meters high on the vertical cliff in Desfiladero de Los Gaitanes gorge. Once the most dangerous hike in the world, it saw a facelift in 2015 when it reopened with a new and safe path above the old one.
The old, partly collapsed path ( with no rails right) is still visible under the current path that is in use. Today, it is mandatory to wear a helmet (you will receive it at the start of the hike in the control cabin). Additionally a safety briefing is given and several safety guards are present along the 2 hour one way trail.
The walk starts from El Kiosko Restaurant in Ardales and it takes 20 or 50 minutes to walk to the control cabin, depending on which way you go. The trail ends in El Chorro and there are shuttle buses that go back to the starting point if you left your car there.
Practical details for walking il Caminito del Rey
- Tickets: You can buy a general ticket which covers entrance and helmet You can buy tickets at the official website here.
- Guided tours: Guided tour are available in Spanish or English. The guide will tell you everything about the intriguing history of the footpath and about the hydroelectric station you will see at the beginning of the walk.
- Entrance Fee: General tickets €10, guided tours €18
- Getting there: If you come by train from Malaga city, you need to take the shuttle bus to the beginning of the route so you should plan to arrive in el Chorro 1,5-2 hours before your admission time. The bus costs €1,55 and can be paid directly to the driver.
– Find your perfect hotel in Malaga –
Torre at Serra da Estrela Natural Park (Portugal)
Explored by Cath from Moving to Portugal
One of the lesser known natural landmarks in Europe can be found in Central Portugal – The Serra da Estrela Natural Park. The park is the largest natural conservation area in Portugal, spanning over 1000 km²! The highest peak of the Serra da Estrela Natural Park can be found at 1.993 meters and is aptly called Torre (Tower in Portuguese). It is the single most highest point on all of continental Portugal and the second highest in all of Portugal (second only to Mount Pico on Madeira).
The good news is, you do not have to climb your way to the top (unless you absolutely want to). The Torre is accessible by road, during the months of May to October driving the drive is relatively easy. However if you plan to come during the the winter/spring months your car will require snow chains for this arduous drive. The route you want to take is R339!
Even better news than the no climbing, is that there are no fees to visit the National Park, and the road to the summit is well-maintained throughout the year. Make sure to plan plenty of time for this particular drive though, as these previous views over the lesser-known central area of Portugal will make you want to stop every few meters.
At the top of the Torre are a few pretty buildings you might want to check out. In the centre of the roundabout at the Torre is a trig point monument depicting the highest point in the Serra da Estrela. Additionally you will find two domed towers , once radar towers for the Portuguese air force, now scenic parts of the mountain range and no longer used. Fun fact, one of the towers now belongs to the GNR (national police force).
Once you get to the top, enjoy the views with a warm coffee accompanied by -what else – a scrumptious pastel de nata at the little café. If you are not scared of heights, why not try a ride on the ski lift. These lifts operate year-round, be sure to take a round-trip for the best views from both sides. If hunger strikes, do not worry Serra da Estrela cured ham and cheese is available in a little shop at the top.
Make sure to remember to bring layers, even in summer. The Torre is at an elevation of almost 2,000 metres. The winds can pick up at a moment’s notice, even in August, and the temperatures can vary widely at the top compared to in Sera
Practical details for visiting the Torre
- Getting there: By car – take route R339
- Entrance Fee: Free
- Good to know: Make sure to remember to bring layers, even in summer. The Torre is at an elevation of almost 2,000 metres. The winds can pick up at a moment’s notice, even in August, and the temperatures can vary widely at the top compared to in Sera
- Nearest town: Covilhã
– Find your accommodation in the nearby town of Covilhã –
Lago di Braies, Braies (Italy)
Italy is widely know for impeccable cuisine and historic landmarks, it also home to some of the most spectacular natural landmarks in Europe. Lago Di Braies is without a doubt one of the most popular lakes in the Dolomites. It has been photographed to bits, and with good reason! The lake is about 1,2km long, 300-400 meters wide and is located in the heart of the Dolomites.
What makes this lake so unique is it’s many hues of green of blue and the unbeatable reflection of the mountains in the crystal clear water. Come early and the sun rise over the mountaintops, turning them a deep shade of orange. Alternatively, if you are not a fan of waking up early, go later in the day, rent a boat and row around the lake.
Practical information for visiting Lago di Braies
- Best time to go: Early mornings for the tranquil water (before 08.00) or anywhere after 08.30 if you want to rent a boat
- Getting there:
By Car: Park in one of the 4 designated parking spots (fees are €25/day)
By Bus: – Public bus nr 442, (route: Braies di Dentro/Innerprags – S. Vito/St. Veit to the Lago Di Braies)
- Fees for renting a boat: €19 for half an hour and €30 for an hour
– Find your hotel in the quaint nearby village of San Candido –
Val d’Orcia (Italy)
When it comes to famous landmarks in Europe, the region of Val d’Orcia in Tuscany (Italy) deserves first place. Val d’Orcia derives its name from the Orcia river, which runs through the rolling hills of the valley. The region of Val d’Orcia is located in the south of Tuscany and extends from Siena all the way to Monte Amiata.
A few years ago this beautiful region was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is not hard to see why. Rolling hills sparsely interrupted by little villages and winding roads along which the panoramic views that leave even the most ardent critic speechless.
The best way to visit the valley is to rent a car and go out on an adventure. Expect to find roads lined with cypress trees, romantic vineyards and olive groves, medieval villages on hill tops and field upon field of sunflowers are just waiting to be explored.
Make sure to stop at one of the local wine producers for an impromptu wine-tasting – Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Brunello di Montalcino and Rosso d’Orcia are the better known reds of the region. When you stop for lunch make sure to try some of the local specialities: Pecorino (sheeps cheese), mushrooms, chestnuts, truffles and for the meat eaters, charcuterie.
Lake Bled, Bled (Slovenia)
Nestled deep in the heart of the Balkan in the beautiful country of Slovenia there are a plethora of natural lakes – each one more beautiful than the next. This region is Europe is slowly but surely starting to see a steady influx of tourism. One of the most visited lakes is without a doubt the fairy-tale like waters of Lake Bled.
Surrounded by the rugged Julian Alps, the pristine emerald waters of Lake Bled are often frequented by bevies of swans, amorous couples in rowboats or eager tourists hopping on the wooden pletnas on their way to the island in the middle of the lake. The little island contains a church which, according to legend, will grant you one wish if you ring the bell tower. The church on the little island, surrounded by mountains is without a doubt one of the most famous landmarks in Europe, and with good reason!
Practical details for visiting Lake Bled
- Getting there: Hop on a direct bus from Ljubljana for €7 (takes around 70 minutes)
- What to do: Hike around the lake (6km), take a pletna to the island (€14) or rent a rowboat (€20/hour)
- Things to try: Be sure to get a slice of the famous Bled cake (Kremšnita)
– Find a hotel right off Lake Bled –
I hope this overview of famous landmarks in Europe – be it buildings or natural landmarks – has ignited a little spark in you to come and visit Europe, or to expand knowledge of the continent.
Europe has a vast wealth of culture, myths & legends, nature and adventure just waiting for you to explore!
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