10 of Europe’s Best Historical Sites to visit
Think Europe and you’ll think of Italian Renaissance art, the Roman Empire, Medieval cobbled streets, Palaces and Castles.. there’s so much to see that it’s hard to see it all. We’ve selected 10 of our favourites – some for their famous buildings, some for their revolutions, and some for, well, the love of art! Here are our recommendations for 10 of Europe’s Best Historical Sites.
1. Best historical sites to visit in Granada, Spain
Granada has to feature on any list of 10 of Europe’s Best Historical Sites for its beauty and unique charm. Enchanting cobbled streets lead through the old Arabic quarter up to the highest point of the old town to the Mirador San Nicolás where you can see the famous Alhambra Palace on the opposite hill with a backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains. This UNESCO palace and gardens built in 889 AD – thought to be the closest to paradise when they were converted to a palace from a fort in the 14th century – are the most exquisite examples of Muslim architecture in Europe. The Albayzín (the medieval Arabic quarter) is alive with markets and tea sellers, winding through the narrow streets. The city also has a beautiful Cathedral surrounded by relaxed squares with terraces full of tapas – Granada is famous for it! For a little modern history take one of the street art tours – there’s plenty of cool murals to see.
If you’re visiting Granada stay at the centrally located Oasis Backpackers – there’s an amazing view from the roof of their traditional styled building and gardens.
2. Best historical sites to visit in Paris, France
Paris is rich with history from the 20th century artists and literary figures to the Roman fortress at La Concergerie – later an infamous prison during the French Revolution. You can’t visit Paris without seeing the Arc de Triomphe, commissioned by the Emperor Napoleon and a memorial to all militaries victories since, and the ancient Egyptian Obelisk in the Place de la Concorde – the most famous site of the French Revolution as Marie Antoinette and King Louise XVI were beheaded with the Guillotine in this square. For something a little more spooky then check out the Catacombs – the 18th century labyrinth which is the last resting place of over 6 million Parisians.
If Hemingway and Picasso are more your thing, then check out the Boho neighborhood of St Germain-des-Pres and hunt down their famous haunts. Le Procope is Paris’ oldest restaurant and was a favourite of Balzac, Hugo and philosophers such as Voltaire. Cafe de Flore and Les Deux Magots are better known for their poets and writers and as regular haunts for Jean-Paul Sartre and Hemingway. The artists Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso and Toulouse-Lautrec favoured Montmatre and the Moulin de la Galette. So there’s your list
If you’re staying in Paris then book your bed at St Christopher’s Inn. With a choice of Nord of Canal, enjoy great facilities and the city on your doorstep!
3. Best historical sites to visit in Warsaw, Poland
Warsaw suffered heavily in World War II but the besieged devastated old town was restored with colourful charm as a modern city sprung up around it. The old town has many Renaissance and Baroque buildings, with plenty of communist architecture such as the Palace of Culture. The restaurant filled squares of the old town are most appealing, with cobbled streets evoking history and filled with colour. Take the New World Street that leads from the Castle square to the Royal Palaces and Lazienki Park. Home to Chopin, you can also enjoy a great museum dedicated to the composer in the old town.
Stay at the colourful Oki Doki Hostel if you’re visiting Warsaw – the rooms are designed by local artists and our friendly hostel has the best location in Warsaw!
4. Best historical sites to visit in Vienna, Austria
Ah Vienna! Famous not only for waltzing and schnitzel but for its romantic charm of cobbled streets filled with great coffee places and grand palaces. The big ‘don’t miss’ sites are the palaces of Austrian’s former royal family the Habsburgs. The Imperial Palace, now home to the President – the Hofburg, and the Schönbrunn – one of the largest Baroque palaces in Europe. We love the art collections at the Belvedere Palace and the Winterpalais – both former stately residences that are now museums open to the public in the Museum Quarter. Check out the large collection of Klimt and Schiele.
For a home from home in a great location, try Hostel Ruthensteiner for the friendliest hostel in town.
5. Best historical sites to visit in Berlin, Germany
Berlin is best known for its 20th century history and its reinvention as a trendy and vibrant city since the 90’s. Check-Point Charlie and the Berlin Wall are iconic sites of divided Germany, reunited from East and West in 1990. Must see sites in Berlin include the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, and of course the Berlin Wall. With a reputation for all night techno clubs and art installations, the ever changing cool scene in Berlin will keep you on your toes!
6. Best historical sites to visit in Rome, Italy
The Eternal City is unmissable on the map of European history as the seat of the Roman Empire and Vatican, as well as rich in Renaissance history and Italy’s Dolce Vita setting for Italian Cinema. Who can’t forget the scene of dancing in the Trevi Fountain? A visit to Rome of course has to include The Colosseum – pretend you’re in Gladiator, the Imperial Baths, the Roman Forum and the Pantheon to experience the grandeur of the Roman Empire. For Renaissance Rome don’t miss the beautiful Trevi Fountain and the romantic Spanish Steps – you’ll fall in love with this city even if you’re not a history lover!
If you’re staying in Rome then visit book your bed at Alessandro’s Palace, home to great pizza nights and a roof top terrace with a view.
7. Best historical sites to visit in London, UK
Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, The Queen’s House in Greenwich; London has plenty of Royal history with plenty of palaces and royal monuments for history buffs. If the Crown Jewels aren’t your thing than there are plenty of archaeology sights dating back to its Roman foundations around London, including a collection at the Museum of London by London Wall (Roman itself). If you’re more into culture sights then check out Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre or visit Baker Street for fictional sleuth Sherlock Holmes’ Museum.
Most of the museums in London are free! This includes the world famous British Museum, National Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum and Tate Modern and Tate Britain. So you can see the Parthenon frieze, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, and much more without spending a penny!Stay in London and you’ve got a choice of great St Christopher’s Hostels at different locations – our favorite is The Village by Borough Market and famous London Bridge.
8. Best historical sites to
visit in Athens, Greece
We love the buzz of modern Athens and the stylish bars and clubs of Psiri neighbourhood, but Ancient Athens has to feature on a list of European historical destinations – it’s the birth place of Western civilization! The sites that you can’t miss (and can see from all over the city) are of course the Acropolis and Theatre of Dionysus. You can climb up to the Acropolis for an amazing view of the city (and the Pnyx Hill nearby) and see the 5th BC Parthenon. Other historic sites include the old market place – the Ancient Agora and the extensive galleries of the Acropolis Museum. If you have time make it over to the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Olympic stadium and the well preserved Roman theatre (161 AD) of Herod Atticus. So much to see and mostly from 2,500 years ago!
For the best hostel in Athens then book your bed at AthenStyle. Friendly, safe and fun, this hostel offers the best accommodation on a budget in central Athens – with amazing views!
9. Best historical sites to visit in Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul – bridging East and West this city has the best of European charm and Middle Eastern mystique, as well as a plenty of historical buildings. With so many monuments and mosques you’re going to have to squeeze a lot in (especially if you want to visit some Turkish Baths as well!) but a good place to start is the famous Topkapi Palace and its gardens – home to the Sultans. Once you’ve admired that and discovered the history head to Aya Sofya opposite the Blue Mosque. This converted church is now a beautiful example of Islamic architecture and dates back to the 6th century – housing many Sultan tombs and amazing carpets. Opposite is the most famous site in Istanbul; the 17th century Blue Mosque, which dominated the skyline with its 6 minarets. It’s Basilica Cistern. Dating back to the 6th century, this has been modernised but is a truly amazing place to visit. If you like museums then don’t miss the Istanbul Archaeology Museum and the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum, both housing a huge collection of artefacts and beautiful pieces.
Heading to Istanbul? Stay at Hush Hostel – fun, clean and affordable accommodations in a newly renovated historical and stylish building in the heart of Kadikoy.
10.Best historical sites to visit in Jerusalem, Isreal
Too famous to miss although a little bit further afield is the famous religious hub of Jerusalem – key homage site to Jews, Christians and Muslims around the world. With over 3,000 years of history Jerusalem has seen many changes, from the modern trendy restaurants of the German Quarter to the ancient Western Wall. The old city is very easy to get lost in, with so many narrow labyrinth style streets, but also this is half the fun! There are churches, synagogues, mosques, markets, bazaars, food stalls and rooftops – so much to see that wondering within the city’s walls will leave you exhilarated. Don’t miss the Western Wall (or Wailing Wall) – the holiest place in the city, The Tower of David, the Isreal Museum which houses unique ancient manuscripts and artefacts and the Western Wall Tunnels.
If you’re visiting Jerusalem then stay centrally at the fun and friendly Abraham Hostel – they organise great parties and tours and have a chilled roof terrace to enjoy.