The ongoing global pandemic has brought the travel and tourism industry to a grinding halt. Tourists, solo travelers, digital nomads and other adventurous individuals had to stay at home, observe social distancing and refrain from doing any kind of leisure travel.
The situation this 2021, however, is improving. According to a survey published by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), two-thirds of global destinations are open to some form of tourism. This means that you won’t have to necessarily cancel your dreams of having a memorable vacation this year.
If you have plans to go on a luxury holiday, consider traveling to Western Europe once the pandemic wanes.
Western Europe: A Quick Overview
Western Europe is a region that’s farthest from Asia. This large region consists of several European countries, including France, Spain, Andorra, Portugal, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Lichtenstein and Luxembourg. Some of the mentioned countries attract millions of tourists every year.
Take France as an example. Before the pandemic hit, this Western European nation was the most visited country in the world. The French capital, Paris, was a hit for foreign visitors with more than 30 million tourist arrivals a year — more than any other city across the globe.
Whether you’re an experienced globetrotter or a first-time traveler, the cities and other destinations in Western Europe have the power to thrill. You’ll come across tourist attractions that have lasted through centuries.
Another great thing about Western Europe is its excellent tourist infrastructure. You can travel between and in each of the nations comfortably, allowing you to enjoy your holiday without undue stress.
Cities and Destinations to Visit in Western Europe: Our Recommendations
Western Europe is a huge region. If you’re traveling to this area for the first time, you’ll want to visit the beautiful capital cities. This means putting Paris, Madrid, Brussels, Amsterdam and Berlin in your itinerary.
Touring these Western European capital cities, however, has its drawbacks. Even if they are popular, some cities can be overrated. What’s more, there’s more to Western Europe than just the capitals.
Long story short, the major Western European cities are worth the detour for the tourist attractions they have to offer, but you shouldn’t make them your go-to destination. Consider checking out the off-the-beaten-path places, as well.
If you’re wondering about the best places to travel in Western Europe, look no further. When creating your trip itinerary, consider adding these destinations to your places-to-visit list:
Travel styles vary from one person to another, but many enjoy easy tours of interesting places, delving into old bodegas, tasting savory dishes and checking out architectural wonders. In Cordoba, you’ll find amazing food, architectural sites and other places of interest.
One of the unique tourist attractions of this city is the Mezquita, a former mosque that serves as an example of worldly and seasoned Islamic culture. Today, the Mezquita is a Christian cathedral that overlooks the heart of Cordoba and attracts travelers into its spectacular embowed interior.
Apart from the Mezquita, Cordoba has a great town center. Nearly everyone visiting there will wander around for a few hours or even every day. Shops, bars and restaurants are the centers of social life in this Western European destination.
Tucked between the mountains and the sea, Sintra is a naturally blessed city and a UNESCO World Heritage site. What makes this place so appealing to visitors are the misty woodlands, alluring gardens and gleaming palaces that are both historically rich and filled with natural beauty.
You’ll fall in love with the cultural attractions that Sintra has to offer — although you may want to visit this place outside the peak season. The picturesque residences along with the magnificent ancient fortifications attract tourists in droves during summertime.
Many refer to this medieval Western European city as the “Venice of the North” due to its narrow and long canals. Exploring Bruges is like walking in some kind of fairytale land. The canals look lovely and the buildings perfectly complement the waterways. These elements produce a picture-perfect scene that looks like a Hollywood fantasy film (or a perfect romantic getaway).
That’s not all. Bruges’ whitewashed homes, buzzing market squares, historic churches and cobblestone lanes make this Western European destination Instagram-worthy.
This loveliness, however, comes with a price. This city tends to get crowded, as many tour the place during daylight hours and depart by sundown. If you want to get the most out of your stay in this fairytale-like destination, stay overnight. You’ll enjoy the beautiful floodlights and emptiness at dusk.
Getting Around Western Europe
Foreign tourists have plenty of ways to explore the many destinations of Western Europe. A few of these options are the following:
You can get around Western Europe by hopping on a plane. If you’re on a budget, you could fly with low-cost airlines operating flights across the entire region. Wizz Air, easyJet and Ryanair are a few of the low-cost carriers (LCCs) that you can take, as they allow you to book cheap flights.
Traveling by plane is ideal when you need to go to a Western European country that’s not a neighbor of your current location. A couple of examples include Andorra to Switzerland and Germany to Spain.
If you’re looking for an alternative to flying, you could travel around Western Europe by bus. This is a great option when you keep in mind that this particular region isn’t that big at all.
Traveling by bus is a perfect option for budget travelers. Transportation companies, such as FlixBus and Eurolines, provide several itineraries throughout Europe. A bus ticket from Paris to Berlin costs less than a train ticket.
Buses, however, take a while to get to your destination. If you’re on a budget (and are a fan of slow travel), consider this travel option.
If you want to enjoy the scenery as your travel, choose this option. Trains in Western Europe offer different classes. You could pay for First Class or go on a budget and select Economy.
What’s more, you can select between a slow and a fast train. France, for instance, gives you the option to ride the slow but affordable Réseau Express Régional (RER) and the fast but expensive Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV).
When touring several countries across Western Europe, consider buying rail passes. These will save you money when you travel by train across several countries.
By Sharing a Ride
Ridesharing services are becoming popular in many European countries. BlaBlaCar, a global long-distance carpooling service, is a good option if you want to meet locals as you travel.
Many tourists use ridesharing to go from one place to another within a country. If you’re touring Western Europe as a group, this travel option is a great way to split the costs of a trip.
Tips When Traveling to Europe for the First Time
Traveling to Western Europe, as well as to other regions of the continent, can be both a blessing and a curse. Going to this destination unprepared or uninformed could tarnish the beautiful memories of your trip. You can avoid this from happening by taking note of these travel tips:
Never Bite Off More than You Can Chew
First-time travelers to Western Europe tend to cram every possible major tourist attraction in their itinerary. They create unrealistic plans, such as visiting the Eiffel Tower, partying in Berlin, skiing in Switzerland, checking out the Alhambra in Spain and gambling in Monte Carlo — all in a matter of days.
Don’t let FOMO kick in.
When crafting your itinerary for this trip, give yourself time to relax. The last thing you want is to move around Western Europe like a headless chicken.
Try Local Food
The food in Europe is varied, rich and deeply intertwined with the traditions and culture of a country. You’re missing out on a lot if you fail to actively seek out local delicacies. So dine at a local restaurant instead of heading to fast food chains.
Learn How to Use the Restrooms
Many restrooms in Europe charge a fee when you use them. Paris, for instance, has public toilets that require coins to enter. So, make sure you keep coins in your pocket. They’ll come in handy, especially when you need to pee.
Once the global coronavirus crisis has subsided, make sure you include Western Europe in your travel bucket list. So start saving money and begin planning a fun and memorable trip itinerary to this part of the globe.