A History Buff’s Guide to Europe: Must-Visit Sites and Museums

Europe is a continent with a rich and complex history, from ancient civilizations to world wars and everything in between. If you’re a history buff, then you’re in for a treat on your travels through Europe. To help you make the most of your historical journey, we’ve put together a guide to the must-visit sites and museums.

Ancient History

Europe is home to some of the world’s most fascinating ancient civilizations, from the Greeks and Romans to the Celts and Vikings. Some must-visit sites include the Acropolis in Athens, the Colosseum in Rome, and the Stonehenge in England. For a glimpse into Viking history, head to the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway.

Where to Dig into Europe’s ancient past

As you might expect, the capital of Greece, Athens is one of the best spots to find ancient Greek ruins and archaeological sites. The Acropolis and the Parthenon stand out as some of the most important ancient ruins from this mighty civilization.

For a true Roman experience, head to Italy, where you’ll find countless ancient sites, including the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and Pompeii.

For a glimpse into ancient Celtic history, head to Ireland, while Scandinavia is the place to go to see the legacy of the Vikings.

Bear in mind that in the near future, you’ll need to register with the EU’s new ETIAS travel authorisation to visit Greece and other countries in the Schengen Area with ancient sites.

Must-visit ancient history sites

Some of the top ancient ruins and museums in Europe to visit include:

  • The Acropolis (Athens, Greece)
  • The Colosseum (Rome, Italy)
  • Ruins of Pompeii (Naples, Italy)
  • Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct (Occitanie, France)
  • Viking Ship Museum (Oslo, Norway)
  • Newgrange (Co. Meath, Ireland)
  • Stonehenge (Wiltshire, England, UK)
  • Archaeological Site of Delphi (Greece)

Medieval History

Europe’s medieval period saw the rise of powerful empires and kingdoms, as well as significant cultural and artistic achievements.

Many European cities still have an “old town” — an area dating back to the Middle Ages. You can wander the narrow streets and be transported back in time walking among the old stone buildings. In most cities, like Barcelona, York, and many others, the medieval city is located right at the heart of the modern city.

Spain, France, Germany, and the UK are all great places to find medieval architecture, ranging from atmospheric alleyways to city walls to dramatic castles.

Where to Discover Europe’s medieval history

Spain is the ultimate destination for medieval history, with its myriad of castles and fortresses, including the Alhambra in Granada and the Castle of Coca in Segovia.

England is also closely associated with the Middle Ages. Here you’ll find many impressive medieval buildings, including the Tower of London and Windsor Castle.

Must-visit medieval sites

Some must-visit sites include:

  • The Alhambra (Granada, Spain)
  • The Tower of London (England, UK)
    The Castle of the Teutonic Order (Malbork, Poland)
  • Cité de Carcassonne (Carcassonne, France)
  • City walls and Old Town of Girona (Catalonia, Spain)
  • Walled city of Dubrovnik (Dubrovnik, Croatia)
  • Bruges (Belgium)
  • Alcazar de Segovia (Segovia, Spain)

Renaissance History

The Renaissance period in Europe saw a flowering of art, literature, and culture, as well as significant scientific advancements.

Names like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo immediately spring to mind when you think of the Renaissance. Many famous museums still display the works of these masters today.

There are also plenty of impressive Renaissance-era buildings in Europe for you to explore. This was a time when some of the greatest cathedrals, basilicas, and palaces in the world were designed and built.

Where to Explore the Renaissance in Europe

Italy was arguably the centre of the Renaissance and the perfect place to discover its history. It is home to many of the finest museums and art galleries showcasing works from this era, including the Vatican Museums and the Uffizi Gallery.

Discover the mastery of da Vinci at the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Florence.

To get a taste of French Renaissance splendour, head to the Palace of Versailles, just outside of Paris.

Must-visit Renaissance sites

Some must-visit sites include:

  • Renaissance paintings at the Louvre (Paris, France)
  • The Vatican Museums (Vatican City, Rome)
  • Florence Cathedral (Florence, Italy)
  • The Uffizi Gallery (Florence, Italy)
  • Palace of Versailles (Versailles, France)
  • Marciana Library / Library of St Mark (Venice, Italy)
  • Schwerin Castle (Schwerin, Germany)
  • El Escorial (Madrid, Spain)

World War II History

World War II was a defining moment in European and world history, with a significant impact on the continent’s political and social landscape.

Countries like France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany still bear the scars of the war. These serve as important reminders to never forget the terror and tragedy of this landmark event in the 20th century.

Where to Experience World War II History

Amsterdam is one of the best destinations to learn about World War II history, with its many museums and memorials, including the Anne Frank House and the Resistance Museum.

Head to the D-Day beaches in France to learn about the Normandy landings at the many museums and memorials.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland has a reputation for being a powerful and moving experience — a sobering reminder of the horrors committed during the Second World War.

Must-visit WW2 sites

  • The Anne Frank House (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
  • The D-Day beaches (Normandy, France)
  • The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum (Poland)
  • Oskar Schindler Factory (Krakow, Poland)
  • American Cemetery (Colleville-sur-Mer, France)
  • Omaha Beach (France)
  • Holocaust Memorial (Berlin – Germany)

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