Countries covered: Malta, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, France & Monaco
World-renowned for its unmatched architecture and landmarks generally and for its numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites especially, as well as for the centuries-old art, ultramodern fashion, music and cars, stylish and passionate culture, regionally rich cuisine, stunning and diverse scenery, exotic beaches, vibrant nightlife, and adventurous activities such as skiing, hiking, and diving – who doesn’t want to visit Italy? Popular for its fascinating towns, impressive archeological sites, and arguably best of all its postcard-perfect grottoes surrounded by clear-blue waters, Malta is definitely worth adding to your bucket list.
Home to a mosaic of lush mountains, rolling hills, grasslands, vineyards, valleys, and large lakes, Switzerland’s flawlessly groomed countryside seems like a landscape architect’s fantasy and a nature-lover’s paradise. Also impressive are the clean, green, nature-filled, commuter-friendly, attractive, and perfectly-sized cities and towns. An “Air of Royalty” is still very much evident in Austria’s overblown architecture and social scene. Mozart music and grandeur sites, elaborate cuisine and incredibly well-maintained national landscapes, breathtaking scenery surrounding perfectly-sized towns, in many ways has this nation setting the standard for contemporary and quality living.
Germany is a place to have loads of fun – make no mistake about it. The alternative vibrancy of the capital, the port life and nightlife of Hamburg, the half-timbered houses and overall romanticism of Lubeck, Heidelberg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and the rich Bavarian traditions of Munich are only small parts of Germany’s allure. This highly urbanized and forward-thinking country is also home to some of Europe’s most unspoiled yet easy-to-access natural wonders: rivers, lakes, forestry, Alpine peaks, and even sandy beaches which provide ample opportunity for outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking, and bicycling. Definitely not least, no trip to Germany is complete without a visit to the Biergarten (beer garden).
The Nordic nations of Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Iceland are four of arguably the most civilized countries on Earth, serving as a role model to the rest of the world with their technologies, environmental preservation practices, exceptional education and living standards, low rates of corruption, and high degree of public contentment. These countries’ high quality of life is usually felt immediately upon arrival. Upon departure, your lasting memory may very well be of the initially reserved yet ultimately humble and helpful people who want to see visitors having a good time.
Characterized by its charming canals and bridges, as well as for its stepped gable facades which are dotted with energy-generating windmills, the Netherlands – home of Heineken – is inhabited by an incredibly well-mannered, open-minded, and environmentally friendly populace and filled with street-bikers. This densely populated, mostly urbanized, and highly evolved country offers a lot more than its “fame” for drugs and sex. Dutch marijuana shops and the red light districts are only a petite piece of a fairly large puzzle. Home to world-renowned chocolate, beer, and jewelry trading, Belgium allures tourists mostly with its cities and towns: Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, and especially Bruges. Bruges is an aesthetically gifted, canal-laced town often described as an ‘open-air museum.’
Boasting the “Global Command Center,” that is London, birthplace of some of the world’s most popular rock bands, and live music venues, featuring several heritage-rich urban centers, dotted with quaint villages, farmhouses, secluded chapels, ruined castles, and prehistoric monuments, and home to compact yet diverse nature that is just perfect for adventurous activity, today’s United Kingdom is nothing short of fascinating. An “all shades of green” island graced with serene lakes, wetlands, coastal mountains, and panoramic vistas – all dotted with medieval castles, monasteries, and primeval monuments and featuring space for outdoor attractions such as cycling, hiking, surfing – brewing world-renowned Guinness beer, giving birth to rock bands U2 and the Undertones, and unsurprisingly home to a vibrant pub and live music scene, Ireland certainly has its distinct character. Visiting the Emerald Isle provides for a rich experience for its nature and people alike.
Characterized by its distinct architecture, dotted with medieval castles, and quintessentially Southern European villages – home of diverse scenery featuring shoreline resorts that attract families and partygoers alike, and also boasting exceptional cuisine and wine, Portugal presents a great variety of attractions. Aside from the quality vineyards and wonderful weather, perhaps the country’s greatest allure is its nature. Even the more touristy destinations usually provide easy access to unspoiled landscape: a dramatic coastline, beautiful beaches, striking coves and cliffs, lush valleys and forestry, dazzling fields of flowers, and wild rivers.
Flamenco, bullfights, tapas bars, paella, sangria, and unmatched nightlife only scratch Spain’s amazing surface. Many of Spain’s autonomous communities such as Catalonia, Galicia, and Basque Country boast a wealth of architectural, cultural, and natural attractions comparable to what one would typically expect only from an entire country. Spain features mind-blowing art inspired by the likes of Antoni Gaudí, El Greco, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí. The country is also home of contrasting landscapes, from the lush north to the dry south, and from rugged mountain ranges to exotic beaches and islands. As if all that wasn’t enough, the country is also graced with opulent palaces, imposing castles, grand cathedrals, and Roman relics, as well as eye-catching contemporary structures.
Considering its numerous world-renowned landmarks, first class art museums, galleries, refined culture standards, romantic language, rich gastronomy, wonderful wines, gorgeous botanical gardens, lovely and varied landscapes, and globally respected music and fashion scenes, it is quite easy to understand why France has been one of the world’s top tourist destinations for quite some time. What adds to the experience of visiting France after exploring Paris is gaining valuable insights into the country’s diverse regions – and at least some of their distinct characteristics: Normandy and its romantically illuminated island of Mont St-Michel, the fantasy-like châteaux of the Loire Valley, the internationally acclaimed vineyards surrounding the Aquitaine and Bordeaux regions, the bucolic charms and Roman ruins of Provence, the forward-thinking culture of Lyon, the Flemish flair of Lille, the German-influenced jewels that are Strasbourg and Colmar, the Italian-influenced, and ever-so-stylish French Riviera. Worth noting is that France is as attractive to nature seekers as it is to architecture buffs. To name but a few quite popular natural attractions: the mountainous Alps and Pyrenees, the cliffs and sand dunes of Brittany, and the colorful and exotic scenery of not just the Côte d'Azur but Corsica island as well. What’s more, France provides ample opportunity for outdoor activities like skiing, surfing, and trekking.
Boasting grandeur architecture, the Grimaldi family’s Prince's Palace, graceful streets, green and fountain-filled parks, and absolutely stunning views, one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated nations packs a lot into a little piece of land. Monaco is best known for the annual Monaco Grand Prix motor race and the Monte Carlo Casino. Although motor racing, gambling, and the flaunting of worldly goods are indeed characteristic of Monaco, you do not need to be the jet-set type to enjoy a stay here. There is more to this marvel than its yachts, glitz, or glamour. Its wards (neighborhoods) contain generations of history, and each features attractions like as Monaco-Ville, a picturesque quarter perched onto a rocky headland extending into the Mediterranean. An eye-catching urban settlement such as this is gorgeously located between the Alps and the sea, with the French Riviera to the west and Italian Riviera to the east.
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My trip to Western Europe was amplified by the information shared in your book. Not only was I able to get around most efficiently, I was also able to meet some amazing people and have some unforgettable experiences using your advice. I stationed myself in a prime location and traveled around viewing the majesty that Western Europe beholds. My gratitude to you and your work, Charlie.
Wow! And I thought travel books were supposed to boring. Charlie, you are a character, sir. Your heart-warming personal stories about your experiences throughout Western Europe were fantastic, and that’s not even why I bought the itinerary. Your research is on-point for sure. I didn’t have any qualms traveling through the region using your advice. Ten points, man!