Top Attractions & Must-See Sights in London – Part 1

One of the world’s top tourist destinations, London is where many of our Europe Coach Tours begin and end. If you’re spending a few extra nights in the British capital (and why wouldn’t you!?), then be sure to check out some of these incredible attractions!

  1. Buckingham Palace
Image by AlanEisen, Wikimedia Commons

Buckingham Palace, London. Image by AlanEisen, Wikimedia Commons

Probably the top of most people’s London bucket-lists, Buckingham Palace is hugely popular – and with good reason. It’s the official London residence of the monarchy of the United Kingdom, and it also serves as their administrative headquarters. It’s often at the centre of royal hospitality, receiving dignitaries and foreign officials on state visits, and when not in use for these purposes, the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace are open to visitors at certain times of the year. Buckingham Palace is decorated with works of art forming part of the Royal Collection, one of the major art collections in the world. From the outside, the principal façade is one of the most recognisable sights in the country – if not the world – with its gardens and gilded statues. If you can, try to time your visit with the changing of the guards, which takes place on selected dates at 11:15am. The Welsh Guards are a highly trained regiment in the British Army, taking part in conflicts all over the world and serving as the monarchy’s troops. Catch them on parade if you can!

  1. The Palace of Westminster
The Palace of Westminster. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Palace of Westminster. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Just down the road from Buckingham Palace – in a manner of speaking – is the Palace of Westminster, where the UK’s two houses of Parliament (the House of Lords and the House of Commons) meet. You’ll probably recognise the pointy bits and especially ‘Big Ben’, which is actually the name given to the bell inside the clock tower, which is called Elizabeth Tower. The site has a long history stretching back to the Middle Ages, the palace having existed in some shape or form since the Danish King Cnut began building here in the first half of the 11th century. The palace as it is today was built after the Great Fire of 1834.

  1. The Tower of London
Tower of London with ceramic poppies. Photo by Tim Adams, Wikimedia Commons

Tower of London with ceramic poppies. Photo by Tim Adams, Wikimedia Commons

Probably most well-known as the home of the Crown Jewels, the Tower of London was built in 1066 by William the Conqueror to keep hostile Londoners at bay. Since then it’s functioned as – among other things – a royal palace, the royal mint, a state prison and a storehouse for the army and navy. 22 people were executed here, the last one being Lord Lovat, who was convicted of treason. On the day of his execution, and apparently to his great amusement, one of the scaffolds built for onlookers collapsed, killing twenty of them. He didn’t laugh for long though as he was beheaded soon afterwards. You might say he laughed his head off! The execution block used in the beheading is actually on display in the White Tower – a 57kg piece of solid oak.

  1. St Paul’s Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral. Photo by Kunstlerbob, Wikimedia Commons

St Paul’s Cathedral. Photo by Kunstlerbob, Wikimedia Commons

One of London’s most iconic buildings, St Paul’s Cathedral overlooks the Thames and to many Londoners it’s a symbol of the hope, resilience and strength of the city of London. It was one of the few buildings to emerge largely unscathed from the bombings of World War II, and photos of the dome of St Paul’s rising above the destruction of its surroundings sealed the cathedral in the minds of many as an enduring icon. Completed in 1708, it was the tallest building in London until 1962. Important services that took place here include the funerals of Lord Nelson and Sir Winston Churchill, Jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria, the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, and the 80th birthday and Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

  1. Tower Bridge
London Tower Bridge, London, England. Photograph by Anne Dirkse, http://www.annedirkse.com

London Tower Bridge, London, England. Photograph by Anne Dirkse, http://www.annedirkse.com

Probably one of the most well-known structures in London, Tower Bridge is often mistakenly called ‘London Bridge.’ Taking its name from the Tower of London, the bridge is a suspension bridge and bascule, opening to allow ships to pass beneath it when necessary. Built 120 years ago, it’s become a key part of the London skyline. The Tower Bridge Exhibition details the history of the bridge, from initial construction to Royal visits and daredevil stunts. Excitingly, the bridge now features glass floor panels, allowing you to see London life through a glass floor – a completely unique experience!

Look out for more unmissable attractions in Part 2 – and remember that we offer sightseeing tours of London too!

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Video of the Week- Barcelona

Barcelona’s made it into our Video of the Week slot before, but this is a far more ‘hands on’ video which reveals the city at street level. We love it! Have you been to Barcelona?

Barcelona – GoPro travel edit from Jeremy Janin on Vimeo.

Barcelona’s vibrant culture stretches beyond its beaches, its legendary architecture and its world-famous drinking and dining scene. With architectural wonders stretching back thousands of years, it’s a city rich in character and creativity. Whether you’re strolling the markets for fresh produce, taking a walk along the beachfront, exploring gastronomical delights or relaxing in one of the city’s parks, you’re in for a real treat.

Get a taste for the unmistakable buzz of Barcelona and you might understand why the city deserves a second mention in our Video of the Week series. Want more of Barcelona? Check this out.

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Top 5 places to see in Greece

Greece is one of our favourite destinations, with ancient wonders and beautiful landscapes making it hugely popular with travellers the world over. Read about some of our favourite spots below and visit our website to learn more about this fascinating destination.

The Acropolis, Athens

Athens AcropolisThe Acropolis endures today as the most impressive symbol of Greece’s classical spirit and civilisation. Dating back to the 5th Century BC and designed by Pericles, this unassuming hill became home to these impressive monuments commemorating centuries of thought, art, philosophy and democracy. A definite highlight of Athens, you simply cannot miss the Acropolis!

Nafplio

Nafplion from Palamidi CastleOne of Greece’s prettiest and most romantic places, this small port town nestles beneath the towering Palamidi fortress. Blessed with narrow winding streets, cafes, stylish boutiques and elegant homes, Nafplio is a definite highlight of any tour to Greece!

Delphi

Apollo Temple DelphiPerched on a cliff with a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside, Delphi was chosen by the Greeks as the ‘navel of the earth’. It was here that the Sanctuary of Apollo was built, making this a hugely important part of ancient Greece. Apollo – for those who don’t know – is the son of Zeus in classical Greek mythology, and is considered to be the god of music, art, poetry, archery,

Meteora

MeteoraAnother one of our favourites is Meteora, known for its sheer cliff faces and the monasteries built at their summit. As ancient as these cliff-faces are, they could almost be mistaken for the set of a modern science-fiction tale. It’s a strange and beautiful landscape; a little different to what one normally thinks of when considering Greece.

Santorini

SantoriniOn to the islands! Built on the rim of an ancient caldera, Santorini is well-known for its ocean views; and those craggy multi-coloured cliffs rising some 300m out of the ocean. You’ll likely be treated to one of the spectacular sunsets that the island is famous for too! Be sure to explore the island’s archaeological treasures too, along with the modern artists, wineries, breweries and some of the best cuisine in the Greek Islands!

Have we missed anything? What’s your favourite part of Greece? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte Celebrates Christmas

What better place to experience the festive ambience of Christmas than in an authentic French chateau, decked out with incredible decorations? See the Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte with Expat Explore Travel with us on our Christmas tours!

Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte is the largest private chateau in France, having served as the inspiration behind the legendary Palace of Versailles. The castle was built from 1658 to 1661 for Nicolas Fouquet, the Superintendent of Finances in France under King Louis XIV. The collaboration at the time between architect Louis Le Vau, landscape architect Andre le Notre and the painter-decoratod Charles Le Brun marked the start of the “Louis XIV style”, combining architecture, landscape design and interior design in a single project.

Lavishly decorated with stunning gilded walls, statues, tapestries and the era’s finest furnishings, Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte remains one of the most famous French chateaux; though Nicolas Fouquet didn’t live there very long. Having aroused the king’s ire with his poorly-disguised ambition and extravagant habits – which included the building of the Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte – Fouquet was imprisoned in 1661 until his death in 1680.

Christmas decorations at Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Christmas decorations at Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Interesting fact: The chateau has also been used in the James Bond movie ‘Moonraker’ and Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette! Today the chateau hosts various festivals and events, including a Christmas festival!

See the Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte yourself if you’re nearby in Paris, and if you’re on our 10-day Christmas & New Year tour, enjoy a visit to the chateau as one of our optional excursions!

 

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York’s Christmas Markets

Every year the charming city of York hosts their Christmas markets, adding an extra layer of festive delight to an already alluring city. Photos courtesy of Visit York.

York Minster

York Minster

Few cities in England – or anywhere else – really retain their medieval ambiance quite like York. Within its 13th century city walls is a winding network of narrow cobbled streets and lanes, with wonky old buildings peering over at passers-by below. It’s little wonder that the city is still used periodically as a film set.

The Shambles, York - used as Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films.

The Shambles, York – used as Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films.

Fans of Harry Potter may recognise ‘Diagon Alley’ as they stroll past The Shambles, but whether you’re a Potter fan or not, you’re sure to be enthralled by the Gothic masterpiece that is York Minster. Dominating the heart of the city, this cathedral is the largest Gothic Cathedral in Northern Europe, and certainly one of the most beautiful in the world.

Christmas markets in York.

Christmas markets in York.

Of course, there’s nothing like a Christmas market to really make York stand out. Decked out in the finest winter finery, you’d have to be an absolute Scrooge to resist a stroll around the city in winter, sipping on a hot mug of mulled wine, breathing the frosty air and stocking up on treats. York is known for its confectionery too, so look out for little sweet shops stocking all manner of tasty goodies.

A winter stroll in York

A winter stroll in York

The city’s long history and heritage seems to emanate from every cobble-stone, and York is a guaranteed highlight on any tour of Great Britain. 

Sweets and treats at a York Christmas market.

Sweets and treats at a York Christmas market.

Join us on our Great Britain tour departing 3rd December 2014 to really experience the best of York!

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5 of the Best European Landmarks (Infographic)

There are so many great things to see on any tour of Europe, but here are a few of our favourites. Learn more about them in this handy infographic, or head out on one of our tours for the real thing!

 

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Top 5 Instagram photos of the Week

Our Instagram feed is a great window on what’s happening out on the road. This week we’ve had a superb selection of photos from our followers. Take a look below, follow us on Instagram as @expatexplore and be sure to tag your photos with #expatexplore too!

 The Coliseum

When in Rome.. #clanmceurope #expatexplore

A photo posted by Emma Mac (@emmielee89) on

There’s nothing quite like the city of Rome, with so many ancient attractions and sights to see. Here’s a great shot of the Coliseum, just one of the many highlights of any visit to Rome.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Great shots of the famous leaning tower, definitely one of the most famous attractions in Italy.  

Swiss countryside

✨The lake I fell in love with✨ A photo posted by khalid ahamed (@khalidboy) on

Any drive through the Alps is a real showstopper, with quaint homesteads lining the shores of cobalt-blue lakes, the soaring peaks of the Alps looming in the background. Great shot!

Let it snow!

The cold never bothered me anyway.. #expatexplore #clanmceurope

A photo posted by Emma Mac (@emmielee89) on

One’s things’s certain, winter is definitely on it’s way! Up at Jungfrau, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see snow.  It’s a winter wonderland!

On the way to Montenegro

#expatexplore heading towards #Montenegro #beautifulday #timthetourleader #bowtieTim A photo posted by Timothy Alexander Sayer (@timsayergmailcom) on

Tim is one of our tour leaders, and he’s well worth following if you’re into great travel photos from Europe. We love this one – great job Tim!

Follow us on Instagram for great photos from Europe, and check out our home page for details on Europe tours!

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Video of the Week: Paris in Motion

One of our favourite and most frequently visited cities is featured today in our Video of the Week – it’s Paris in Motion!

Paris in Motion (Part 5) from Mayeul Akpovi on Vimeo.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveller with a passport filled with stamps or a newbie stepping outside of your comfort zone for the very first time, Paris is enchanting. The sheer volume of attractions here means that it’s impossible to see everything – and honestly it’s best not to try. Of course there are the major landmarks – everyone should see the Eiffel Tower up close at some point – but you’ll quickly tire yourself if you try to cram too much into each day. Instead, take time to really savour each museum, each monument, each historical building, each cafe. Paris has personality in spades, and to rush through it is to miss the nuances of the city.

This video is the last in a series of five videos; click the links above to see more of this incredible city. Although each one offers only a glimpse of the city, we challenge you not to be tempted to book yourself a trip right away! Whatever the season, Paris is one of the world’s most famous destinations for very good reason.

Visit Paris with us – take a look our range of Europe Coach Tours for further details.

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Top places to travel in 2015

It’s about the right time to start planning next year’s travels; here are a few of the places we’re looking forward to spending time most! Get some inspiration below, or check out the new tours we have planned.

St Petersburg

Peterhof, St Petersburg

Peterhof, St Petersburg

Russia’s imperial capital seldom fails to amaze. An entirely different experience to traveling in the capital Moscow, St Petersburg owes its western-looking tendencies to its founder, Peter the Great. Having employed a succession of Europe’s most famous architects, the city is home to cathedrals and palaces and other imperial monuments which are sure to keep sightseers busy. And throughout Russia’s turbulent history, the city has retained its status as Russia’s first great, modern city. Often referred to as The Venice of the North, St Petersburg boasts elegant canals and over 300 bridges, with mansions, plazas and palaces all lending the city a strikingly European feel.

Along with its architecture, St Petersburg is unrivalled when it comes to art and culture. The Hermitage alone is considered to have the largest art collection in the world; but there is also the Russian Museum, ballet and opera, along with contemporary art museums. Visit St Petersburg on our Northern Explorer Tour!

Greece

Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece

Endless coastlines, delicious cuisine, more ancient ruins than it’s possible to count and a bevy of incredibly beautiful islands: there aren’t many countries that can show off quite as much variety! Those with an interest in ancient myths and legends will be more than satisfied, as will beach-goers and those looking for the party atmosphere on Greece’s many surrounding islands. Greece is irresistible to anyone who enjoys the great outdoors too, making any tour of Greece an instant hit! Visit Greece on our Best of Greece tour!

France – ALL of France

Chateau de Chenonceau, France

Chateau de Chenonceau, France

There’s a good reason why France has been the most-visited country in the world. Culture, cuisine, scenery and romance all combine in the most compelling way in France. Whether you’re exploring the boulevards of Paris, exploring the city’s many museums and art galleries, visiting the culinary heartland of the country in Burgundy, living the jet-set life on the French Riviera, soaking up Old-World charm in Avignon or Lourdes, or paying tribute to the efforts of the Allied forces on the beaches of Normandy, France delivers time and again. Millions of annual visitors can’t be wrong! Visit France on our new Highlights of France tour.

Stockholm

Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

Gamla Stan, Stockholm, Sweden

Sweden’s capital – like many Scandinavian cities – is blessed with amazing natural scenery, and is widely considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful major cities. Built on an archipelago made up of some 24 000 rocky islands, there are endless opportunities for photos on any walk around town. Its old town, Gamla Stan, holds its own as a charming maze of cobble-stone streets and tall, narrow buildings coloured in hues of orange, red and vanilla. Visit the palace, visit art galleries, admire sleek designs and enjoy the hospitality and friendliness of the locals – travelling in Stockholm really is a pleasure! Visit Stockholm on our Northern Explorer Tour!

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria

The castle is almost immediately recognisable in some way to anyone who has seen images of Disneyland – and with good reason. This castle was actually the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland. Soaring turrets and the surrounding mountainous landscape make this one of the world’s most famous castles. Built by Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 19th Century, the castle has also featured in several films. Visit the castle and explore the interior on our ‘Taste of Eastern Europe’ Tour!

Helsinki

Scenic summer evening view of the Old Town pier with sailing yachts and ships in Helsinki, Finland

Scenic summer evening view of the Old Town pier with sailing yachts and ships in Helsinki, Finland

It’s no surprise why Helsinki has frequently topped the list in surveys of the world’s most liveable cities. Like most Scandinavian cities, it’s clean and tastefully-designed; it’s cool without being self-conscious. Enjoy the style of the Art Nouveau buildings, relax in its spacious and stylish cafes and quirky restaurants, and (of course) visit numerous museums and galleries. It won’t take long for you to fall for Helsinki! See it on our Northern Explorer Tour.

The Scottish Highlands

Glencoe, Scotland

Glencoe, Scotland

Having recently held the gaze of the world as it tussled with the option of independence, Scotland is back on the radar as a country with an identity all its own – even if it isn’t completely independent. The highlands are a favourite with many travellers – rugged, soaring mountain peaks and picturesque valleys are popular with outdoor enthusiasts. Many of them have historical significance too, from a time when political disputes were settled on the battlefield rather than the voting station. There’s an enduring fascination with this part of Scotland, where medieval castles overlook cold, deep lochs, where craggy mountains soar – and where some of the world’s best whisky distilleries produce liquid gold. Visit Scotland on our Best of UK & Ireland Tour!

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Top 5 Instagram Photos of the Week

One thing that should be a mainstay of any traveller’s kit is their camera. Over on Instagram, tour leaders and passengers alike are sharing their experiences, and we’re loving the results! Why not share yours, and use the #expatexplore hashtag to make sure we see it! Here are a few of the best posts from the week just past…. 

Tour leader Gayle, featured in this week's #TourLeaderTuesday post.

Tour leader Gayle, featured in this week’s #TourLeaderTuesday post.

First up is our own post (which admittedly is a bit of a pat on our own back), but it’s our #TourLeaderTuesday pic of our tour leader Gayle! “#Regram from yesterday’s #TourLeaderTuesday: it’s our tour leader Gayle! She’s been with us since March 2013 and has quite a list of countries under her belt, incl. Egypt, Singapore, Europe, Canada, the USA, Australia, Israel, Cyprus, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan! #expatexplore #travel”

Great photos from the top of Jungfrau by @aimeemaryann.

Great photos from the top of Jungfrau by @aimeemaryann.

Next up, check out these great photos from @aimeemaryann! “Words and pictures can not express how beautiful switzerland is! #topofeurope #jungfraujoch #switzerland #besttourguideever #gayle #expatexplore #expattour

Tour leader Benny with passengers just before (or after?) their big jump!

Tour leader Benny with passengers just before (or after?) their big jump!

Prague is a pretty amazing city, but when you throw skydiving into the mix, things get even more amazing!! Thanks for the great photo @kelseachandley. “Ahh! Had the most amazing day today. Explored Prague for the 2nd time then finished it off skydiving with the gang! #dontwannaleave #skydiving #prague #expatexplore @ebonymcewan”

#Swans on the #Vltava #Prague #Czech #expatexplore

#Swans on the #Vltava #Prague #Czech #expatexplore

Now for some more Prague action, this time from our very own tour leader Tim! He’s pretty darn handy with a camera – perhaps evidenced by the fact that we’re featuring TWO of his photos! Catch Tim over on Instagram as @timsayergmailcom. “#Swans on the #Vltava #Prague #Czech #expatexplore

#flowerphotochallenge #expatexplore#Vienna

#flowerphotochallenge #expatexplore#Vienna. Photo by @timsayergmailcom

If you’re on Instagram, why not follow our adventures! You’ll find us as @expatexplore. Be sure to tag your photos with the hashtag #expatexplore, and keep those pics coming! (And for those of you who fancy joining us on one of our epic tours, head over to expatexplore.com!

 

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