6 Top European Attractions
By Lynn Coulter | Posted to TravelChannel.com
Big Ben, Stonehenge, the Colosseum and more: these European attractions are perennial tourist favorites. But newer sights are rising to the top of the “must-see” list (relatively new, compared to these historical standards). Read on to decide which ones, ancient or contemporary, to visit on your next trip.
Titanic Belfast, Belfast, Ireland
This museum, located on the site where the ill-fated RMS Titanic was built and launched, has drawn over three million visitors since it opened four years. ago. Tours through its nine interactive and interpretive galleries are self-guided. You’ll see replicas and computer generated images of the ship’s elegant cabins and dining rooms, its deck promenade, engine rooms and more. It’s all so convincing, you may think you hear the ship’s engines rumble.
Don’t miss: The Dark Ride, a themed, cable car ride that uses special effects, animation and full-scale models to let you experience shipbuilding as it was practiced in the early 1900s. Be sure to stop for a close-up look at the Big Fish, just outside the museum. This 32’ salmon was designed to celebrate Belfast’s River Lagan, and its ceramic scales are decorated with images and words that tell the story of the city and its people.
Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
If you’ve been to France, you’ve probably toured this famous French monument, built in 1889 for the World’s Fair. But have you seen it since the first level was renovated? It now boasts a transparent, slip-resistant floor and glass balustrades. There’s also an improved cultural path that utilizes touch screens, digital imagery and other elements to let visitors explore the Eiffel Tower’s history. Seven projectors trained on three walls help immerse you in the experience. After you ride the glass elevator to the top level, at 540 feet high, take in the breathtaking views of the city.
Don’t miss: Toasting with a glass of chilled wine at the Champagne Bar, or a quick, “no frills” picnic lunch at the 58 Tour Eiffel Restaurant.
Tip: Buy your tickets online before you go and beat the crowds, which number in the millions every year.
Buckingham Palace, London, England
Every summer, the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, the official London residence of the United Kingdom’s royal family, are opened to the public. Through Feb. 5, 2017, visitors can take guided tours through the 19 rooms to admire their gilded ceilings, sparkling chandeliers and masterpiece artworks. Just book early, if you plan to go. Tours are limited to 30 people per group. You can also watch the Changing of the Guard, which takes place when the weather permits. See the website for a schedule of times and days.
Don’t miss: The Garden Highlights group tour, which can be combined with the State Rooms tour. The 39-acre palace garden is planted with some 200 trees, roses, wisteria, and more than 350 kinds of wildflowers and is the stunning setting for the Queen’s Garden Parties.
Guinness Storehouse, Dublin, Ireland
Since it opened in 2000, this Guinness-themed attraction at St. James’ Gate Brewery has welcomed more than four million visitors—many of them, presumably, very thirsty. The storehouse has been called the world’s largest pint glass, because its seven floors surround a pint glass-shaped atrium. Visitors start at the “bottom” of the glass—the first floor– and progress to the top. Along the way, they learn the story behind the brews, sample flavors, learn how to pour and serve, stop in a private Connoisseur Bar for a tasting experience, and, when they arrive at the seventh floor, “drink” in panoramic views of the city.
Don’t miss: The St. Patrick’s Day festival held here each year. Check the website for a schedule of the multi-day festival.
Acropolis, Athens, Greece
“Acropolis” refers to a citadel in a high place, like this ancient monument overlooking the city of Athens. Here you’ll find one of the world’s most famous temples, the Parthenon, built in 447 B.C.E. to honor the goddess Athena. Other structures were added later, but they’ve suffered damage and neglect over the centuries. Efforts are underway to restore and preserve as much of this magnificent complex as possible.
Don’t miss: The Acropolis Museum. Look underneath your feet as you walk over the glass floors; you’ll see ruins of homes found while the museum was being built.
Another Don’t miss: The Panathenaic Stadium, built in 140 A.D., and used for Olympic games since 1870. The stadium holds a collection of Olympic torches and posters from 1896 to the present.
Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
Work began on Sagrada Familia, a Roman-Catholic church, in 1882, and it’s still ongoing. (2026 is the projected finish date.) Each year, over three million visitors come to see this beautiful landmark, whose name means Holy Family. The late Antoni Gaudi, considered one of Barcelona’s greatest architects, took over the construction in 1883. His efforts to avoid hard angles and straight lines in the structure make it feel like part of the natural world. Even the interior columns resemble trees in a forest, with pillars that divide at the top into “branches.”
Don’t miss: A guided tour. Expert guides will explain the history of Sagrada Familia and point out many often-missed details and symbols. Visit on a sunny day, if you can, when the sun streams in through the stained glass windows, filling the space with light and color.
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