5 Hallmarks of a Successful European Vacation

Trying to create a list of everything you’ll want to see and do in Europe can be a daunting task. How do you choose between seeing the Eiffel Tower, or exploring the castles spread out over England’s countryside? How can you choose between the incredible dishes that await you at nearly every location? Check off one, two or all of these and you’re guaranteed to have stories to tell when you come home, and a stack of photos to remember your journey. Here are five must-see events and venues to help you create your dream European vacation list!

You Saw a Soccer Match

You don’t need to get seats at the next Manchester United Game to truly appreciate a soccer game, although seeing them play would be nice. Champions League tickets are an absolute must when it comes to visiting Europe. The intense roar of the crowd, the chants, and the energy on and off the pitch are unmatched at most sporting events around the world. The closest feeling might be American football, but it’s still incomparable. Soccer matches are emotional affairs, and the crowd can move you to tears or joyous shouting all in a matter of moments. Even non-football fans should be sure to grab a match of a beautiful game for themselves.

You Bought Something from the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

It’s hard to really quantify the Grand Bazaar that spreads across 60 streets in Istanbul. The market contains some 5,000 shops with crowd sizes that can swell to as many as 400,000 in a day. Hong Kong has street markets that offer a similar feeling, but Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is something out of a fantasy. It was between 1451 and 1466, by Mehmed the Conqueror, and offered a place for locals to buy imported goods. Today, it’s known for being the ultimate source for gold, textiles and Turkish ceramics unique to the region.

Plan a day to get lost here, and make sure you have some space for things to take home. Don’t forget to haggle!

You Saw David’s Backside

Want a great story for a cocktail party? Tell people about the time you saw the statue of David’s backside. Think about it, how often do we really ever see it? Almost every photograph is from the front side, and seeing it from the back requires a trip to Florence. Be sure to book ahead at The Accademia Gallery for a guided tour to learn more about the history of The Gallery, and to see its other unique statues by Michelangelo.

You Saw True Flamenco Dancers in Spain

Flamenco is an intricate art form in Spain, and it consists of many attributes. There is Toque, the guitar on which a cante (the song) is played. Then you must baile (dance), which is the soul of the art. Most people recognize flamenco dresses and costumes for their intricate presence. Dancers move to palos, over 50 different rhythmic patterns, that can range from serious to light hearted to deeply significant. In Andalusia, Spain, dancers take to the streets so you can eat while they perform.

You Ate at a Sidewalk Cafe in France

Is it the end of your journey? The start of new love? A moment of respite? Whatever your motivations, dining at a Paris cafe on the street is an experience completely unique to France. It’s not just the food, it’s the atmosphere, the way people seem to be so carefree and full of natural joy. Maybe you sit in silence with a glass of wine and just people watch, maybe you try and meet new friends. Whatever your route, it’s an experience you can repeat as often as you like without ever finding it to be overdone.

Bonus: You Visited a German Beer Garden

Zugspitze sits atop Germany’s highest mountain where the cold beer in your hand feels right at home with the cool breeze blowing past you. Dress warm for this one, but the truth is any German Beer Garden is an experience you won’t soon forget. Unlike any restaurant you’ve ever been to. Expect grand tables, delicious and hearty food, and even some singing while you feast. Bring your appetite!

Nate Ritter lives in Austin, Texas (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

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