Majestic monuments, well-preserved historic neighborhoods, and unique natural attractions that are fantastic to say at least. That would be the shortest description of the most visited cultural hotspots of the "Old Continent". Each of the European countries has facilities that deserve special attention yet some places turned out to be cultural meccas for visitors that arrive from any corner of the globe.
In some of these European cities, travelers can not only see their own monuments but entire historical complexes that have survived through the efforts of local residents after a few hundred years. These heritage sites are visited annually by tens of millions of curious visitors and numbers are just growing as time passes by.
Everyone should visit these sites at least once in a lifetime and experience firsthand the breathtaking heritage that the European continent left for humanity. In today's article we will cover some of the most notable cultural heritage spots in this part of the world and maybe help you decide your next getaway in Europe.
Whoever visits the City of Madrid will not be disappointed because, in addition to the city, the tourist longing for cultural experiences can also contemplate three spectacular spaces recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Along with its irresistible options for exciting Madrid stag do weekend this spot on European continent has also been declared by millions of curious travelers as a must stop for any visitor who wants to experience constant cultural shocks. And how couldn't they?
The remnants of the glorious Spanish empire can still be witnessed everywhere and this city was and still is the epicenter of Spanish identity. Just twenty minutes from Madrid, travelers can enter the Golden Age from the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes in Alcalá de Henares, declared a World Heritage City in 1998, which proposes a day of cultural experiences among its gorgeous streets, museums, and local flavors.
For example, tourists can visit in its emblematic corners cultural hotspots such as the Cervantes Birthplace, in the middle of the main street. It recreates the environment in which the author of "El Quijote" was raised and allows to contemplate an important collection of furniture, ceramics, engravings, and paintings of the time, as well as a bibliographic collection of the XVI and XVII centuries.
A visit to the University of Alcalá is also essential, founded by Cardinal Cisneros in 1499 and a clear example of the Spanish Renaissance, which proposes a tour of its Trilingual Courtyard, the Laredo Palace, or the Chapel of San Ildefonso which is, together with the Colegio Mayor, one of the oldest spaces in the complex. The city also takes tourists to discover the Corral de Comedias, in the Plaza de Cervantes, "the oldest in Spain" according to Turismo de Alcalá.
And, the Regional Archaeological Museum, inaugurated in 1999 in the former Convent of Dominicos de la Madre de Dios, which shows the history of the territory of Madrid from prehistory to the present. Another jewel of the Community of Madrid is Aranjuez, about 50 kilometers south of the capital of Spain, which acquired the latest of the declarations by Unesco.
The recognition came in 2001 when the art and the nature of its environment earned it to be considered a World Heritage Cultural Landscape. You can also visit the Casa de Labrador, a neoclassical palace built at the request of Carlos IV, and the Museum of Royal Faluas, which has an interesting collection of boats that the kings of Spain used to navigate the Tagus river.
The walks through its tree-lined Baroque streets, and visits to other areas such as the Mariblanca Fountain, the Teatro Real, the Mercado de Abastos, or the Aranjuez railway station, together with a tasty gastronomy in the lack of artichokes, asparagus, pheasants, quail or their famous strawberries, complete the offer of this beautiful town that is also considered to be the garden of Madrid.
Athens - Greece
The Acropolis of Athens can be called the most famous and recognizable landmark of Greece, without a doubt. This is the stone fortress, which is 156 meters high. Unique ancient structures are located on a flat hill. The first fortifications were built there during the reign of the first king of Athens, Cecrops, after which it was named. Later, in the Mycenaean period, the Acropolis became a royal residence.
During this time, his scale was significantly expanded and the construction as much as possible reinforced. The construction on the territory of the Acropolis has been carried out continuously for hundreds of years. The ancient monument was particularly highlighted in the 19th century by historians and specialists in cultural studies after the proclamation of Greece's independence. At that time began a long reconstruction of the monument.
Ancient temples have been restored and more recent buildings have been removed. During the works, unique antique statues were discovered on the territory of the Acropolis. All were transported to different museums. Today replicas of statues complement the unique look of the Acropolis. As in ancient times, the beautiful building is clearly visible from every part of the city.
The locals carefully preserve this historic landmark and are more than willing to show you around everything they proudly know. It is forbidden to build high-rise buildings in the city to get a clear view of the territory of Athens. Travelers wishing to stroll through Ancient Greece can see the carefully restored Parthenon, several reconstructed temples and the ancient theater, as well as the temples of the Greek gods.
Prague - Czech Republic
Travelers visiting Prague have the opportunity to see one of the largest historical and cultural monument collection in Europe. Prague's historic district is divided into five distinct areas, each with its great features and attractions. The old town is located on the right bank of the Vltava.
The story of his appearance is worth knowing. In the 10th century, several tiny settlements were established on the banks of the river. Later, they merged into the city we all know very well today. The historic district reached its peak in the Middle Ages.
The city remained unchanged until the mid-19th century when part of the medieval streets and buildings were completely destroyed and new ones were built in this place. At the same time, part of the medieval and earlier monuments in the old town have been preserved in the outlook that can be seen today. The historic district delights with a variety of architectural styles. Among the outstanding sights are the Charles Bridge and the legendary Prague Castle.
The latter has an incredibly spectacular skyline that surrounds the old castle, the cathedral, and many other historic buildings. Strolling along Mala Strana you can admire incomparable gothic monuments. There are numerous religious monuments in a Baroque style that are arguably the most captivating Baroque masterpieces of the world. Just by standing and admiring cities beauty, you will spread your overall knowledge of the gorgeous planet that we live on and create substantial benefits for your traveling experience.
In Prague, various tour routes are suitable for all tastes and everyone can find just the right way to go around this cultural mecca. Tourists can stroll through the Royal Street, admire the old buildings in the Old Town Square, walk in the parks along the Vltava and enjoy the view of the old pedestrian bridges that make the city really special with its breathtaking cultural offer.
Krakow - Poland
Poland's second-largest city and cultural capital, Krakow has many interesting features that make it a popular summer and winter destination. Krakow is above all the cultural center of Poland, known for its many churches, beautiful architecture, unique monuments, rich cultural differences, and a vibrant nightlife.
Remember that in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Poland and Lithuania formed a great powerful and influential empire of which Krakow was the capital. The historic city center is particularly well preserved and enjoyable. It has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978.
You can also visit the Wawel Royal Castle, the Wieliczka Salt Mine, and Market Square. Listen to the "Hejna", a melody performed by a trumpeter every hour of the highest tower of the Basilica. Discover the charm of the old town and its small streets before going to drink hot chocolate in the cozy tea rooms.
Enjoy a “zapienkanka”, a kind of stuffed baguette or a pierogi dish, like big ravioli stuffed with meat, cabbages or sweetened with fruit. Do not miss lunch in a "milk bar", a restaurant-canteen dating from the Soviet era that offers typical dishes very inexpensive. The economic and cultural dynamism of a city is often linked to its ability to attract young people. This is what Krakow, one of the largest university centers in Poland, does with 200,000 students.
Known in Poland for its lively nightlife and the diversity of its cultural activities, the city is very popular with Polish youth. An urban dynamism that explains why more and more major European events are taking place there. Do not miss the chance to closely enjoy the cultural fruits of Matejki Square. The central element of the square is the monument of Grunwald that commemorates the 500th anniversary of the battle in which the Polish and Lithuanian armies defeated the troops of the Teutonic Order.
The monument of Grunwald, or rather the equestrian monument of the Polish king Vladislaus II Jagiellon, was erected in 1910 to give "Glory to the parents and encouragement for the brothers!", as we can read in the base of the statue. One of the special cultural treats that many visitors favor is a chance to remember Auschwitz and its horrors first hand.
Located 1.5 hours by bus from Krakow, the visit to the concentration camp consists of two parts. The first at Auschwitz turned into a museum of the Holocaust and the second from the extermination camp at Birkenau, left as it was at the end of the war. The visit is overwhelming and allows you to feel, understand and never forget.
Bordeaux - France
Located near the ocean and equipped with quays renovated in a modern and intelligent way, Bordeaux completes a flamboyant mutation. Great wines, gastronomy, and lifestyle. The city of Gironde has recently been "dedicated city to visit" in 2017 by the Lonely Planet.
Its cultural offer seems incessant and very rich. Shows, plays, and concerts are numerous. The historical center, whose cultural and architectural wealth is unparalleled, will seduce and surprise you to say at least. One of the best examples of its monumentality is the Pey Berland tower that adorned the postcards sent from this city for centuries. This flamboyant Gothic style building has some impressive bells and, since the 19th century, it is crowned by a golden virgin.
From its 50 meters high, its two terraces offer 360° view over the city. From the 18th-century facades of the quays to the streets of the Saint-Michel district, Bordeaux has 1,810 hectares classified as World Heritage by UNESCO since 2007. In addition, there are also more than 350 buildings listed as Historical Monuments! Thought and redesigned by urban planners in the 18th century, the city offers a layout and harmony that impress.
The cultural offer of Bordeaux is almost endless. On the one hand, the city is famous for its comics authors and art galleries, on the other hand, the new music halls allow the crossroads of all kinds of styles and techniques. Bordeaux and its vineyards are also indissociable. For those who enjoy tastings and the history of viticulture, the city offers a variety of excursions, workshops, and cruises around wine.
In Bordeaux, the culinary offer is also impressive, Michelin-starred, gourmet restaurants or other affordable places can be found in abundance. These include Pierre Gagnaire's Grande Maison, Philippe Etchebest's Fourth Wall and Gordon Ramsey's Le Pressoir d'Argent one of the most famous restaurants of the world that became the cultural pride of the French people.
The nearest sandy beaches are less than an hour from the city center. From the wild tip of the Verdon to the tourist basin of Arcachon, the Gironde offers 250 km of coast where you can oxygenate the winter and take a sunbath from the first beautiful days of spring.
You can hardly find a place in this world that is thriving more from cultural riches and differences than what you can come along in Europe. Around every corner of these historical cities are hidden things that both your mind and your camera will love to capture and visiting them once in your life is a must if you are in love with the cultural heritage of our planet.
Choosing the best starting destination in such adventure can be quite challenging but try to conclude what you want to see the most and start from there, the “Old world” will do the rest with its relentless charm and if anything is certain, you will return home with countless stories and images in your mind that are guaranteed to stay there forever.