Top 5: Places to visit in Europe

Planning your big trip to Europe? This fantastic continent has so many amazing places that its hard to know where to start. To help you out we have listed some of our favourite places in Europe to visit.

1. Athens, Greece

Athens Acropolis

Athens Acropolis

Athens is the capital and largest city in Greece with a population of over 3 million people and is considered to be the historic capital of Europe, with its history dating back to 3000 BC. Athens has plenty to offer from exploring the ancient ruins and visiting the vast museums to relaxing on one of the beautiful beaches or shopping in some of the traditional Greek markets, there is something here for everyone!

Because of its amazing location Athens experiences warm weather throughout the year, enjoying more than 250 days of sunshine. The best time to travel however is spring and autumn when the temperature is milder and the crowds have thinned out. We have five fantastic tours that cover Athens; each includes a tour of the city where you can explore some of the ruins of ancient Greece. You will also visit the temple of Athena, Nike and the Parthenon.

2. Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre, which means Five Lands in English, comprises of five small coastal villages; Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza & Monterosso. The five villages, the coastline and surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Cars and motorbikes were banned over 10 years ago so the area is very well preserved. Cinque Terre has some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever see in your life, and while you are here why not try some of the local produce, such as the fresh locally caught seafood!

Summer is the most popular time to visit Cinque Terre, so expect there to be quite a few people around. If you are planning on walking some of the trails then avoid doing so in the middle of the day as temperatures will rise. Instead plan to do this in the early morning or late evening when it is cooler, you may even catch one of the stunning sunrises or sunsets! Using La Spezia as our base, we explore the famous Cinque Terre region during our 12 day Italian Delights tour. It is also available as an optional excursion on our 8-day Taste of Italy tour

3. Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Giants Causeway

Basalt columns, Giants Causeway

The Giant’s Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The Giant’s Causeway is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland with three quarters of a million visitors a year. The Giants Causeway was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 and a national nature reserve in 1987.

The sunset in spring and autumn make for beautiful photos, but the Giants Causeway is a great place to visit anytime of the year. Make sure to take a warm jacket as the weather is very unpredictable and will change frequently throughout the day. Expat Explore have two tours that visit Northern Ireland and both have a stop at the Giants Causeway; the Irish Explorer tour and our Best of UK and Ireland tour that also visits England, Wales and Scotland.

4. Berlin, Germany

Oberbaum bridge, Berlin

Oberbaum bridge, Berlin

The capital of Germany, Berlin is home to more than 3.5 million people. Berlin is located in north-eastern Germany on the banks of River Spree. Around one third of the city’s area is composed of forests, parks, gardens, rivers and lakes. With over 175 museums history buffs will be kept entertained for weeks! If museums aren’t your thing then Berlin still has you covered, there are over 50 theatres and 300 cinemas, the nightlife is amazing and Berlin is home to the largest department store in continental Europe so you can shop till you drop!

Berlin has a moderately cool and humid climate and is generally comfortable to visit any time of year, winter does get very chilly as the winds pick up so make sure you bring a warm coat. We have three great tours that visit Berlin; our longest tour the Ultimate Europe, our brand new tour the Northern Explorer and the one-way Eastern Adventure that starts in London and visits Berlin on the way to the finish point in Rome.

5. Barcelona, Spain

Palau Nacional, Barcelona

Palau Nacional, Barcelona

With a population of over 1.6 million people and Spain’s second largest city, Barcelona is also the capital of the Catalan region and has it’s own unique culture that is not to be missed! Sun, beaches, football, siestas…the list goes on! Visit Barca because it is one of the world’s leading tourist, economic and cultural centres, not to mention for it’s amazing architecture! There is no greater joy than enjoying tapas in a café on Las Ramblas and watching the world go by!

With its Mediterranean climate Barcelona enjoys mild winters and warm dry summers. May and June are the ideal times to visit, the spring weather is nice and warm and you will avoid the summertime tourist rush. Expat Explore has five tours that visit Barcelona. Each includes a free day, so you will have plenty of time to explore this beautiful city and its incredible beaches!

Still can’t decide which of these stunning places to see in Europe? Why not see them all, head over to our website to choose the tour that is perfect for you!

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Top 5: Reasons to visit Europe this Spring!

The Christmas season is over and we are well into the first month of 2015 (scary!), so what better way to ease those winter blues than planning your next holiday?  Spring is an amazing time to travel, not only is the weather getting warmer but the days are getting longer; more daylight means more time for sightseeing!

Spring time is the shoulder season for most places in Europe (those months that are between the high season and low season) this often means cheaper accommodation and flights. The other, and probably my favourite, advantage of travelling in spring: shorter queues. For those of you that have a bit of travel under your belt you will know all about queuing for hours at a time at that must see attraction- No thank you! 

Here are some of the highlights that Europe has to offer and why you should give travelling on a tour in spring a go!

1. King’s Day

King's Day

King’s Day Amsterdam. Photo by Eric Walter, Wikimedia Commons

Spring is also when the Dutch celebrate some of their biggest and most important holidays. Dress in orange and help the locals celebrate their king with street markets, live music and brightly decorated boats on Kings Day! Come and party with us on the Amsterdam King’s Day Weekend tour!

2. Prague Spring Festival

Benjamin Britten: Gloriana. Photo: www.festival.cz

Fans of classical music and opera will be dazzled by the Prague Spring International Music Festival. Running from 1st May to early June, this historic music festival features top soloists and orchestras from all over the world. Check our all our tours that visit Prague in May.

3. Brussels City Parks

The Château Malou in Park Malou, Brussels. Photo by Michal Osmenda, Wikimedia Commons

Why not take a bike ride through one of Brussels’ many city parks or woods? Join us on our 3-Countries Weekend tour and explore the gentle sloping hills, blooming flowers and beautiful ponds.

4. Keukenhof Gardens

Keukenhof tulip gardens. Photo by Donar Reiskoffer, Wikimedia Commons

Expat Explore’s Amsterdam Tulip Weekend tour will take you to the world famous ‘garden of Europe’ – Keukenhof – which attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world to see the beautiful tulips. The Keukenhof Park has over 7 million flower bulbs planted to create the most amazing garden you will ever see.

5. Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

Luxembourg Gardens. Image by Felipe de la Fuente Díaz (Felipedd),

Luxembourg Gardens. Image by Felipe de la Fuente Díaz (Felipedd), Wikimedia Commons.

Spring is the time of new life! Paris definitely starts to come back to life in spring, not only are the gardens starting to bloom but you will also find the locals back out on their terraces, drinking tea and soaking up the sun’s rays. Go down to the stunning Luxembourg Gardens for a picnic and some people watching or just take a nice leisurely stroll around the garden to escape the busy city. Click here to check out all of our tours visiting Paris this Spring.

Want to experience some of these great highlights for yourself? Head over to our website to check out some of the tours we have departing during spring! 

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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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