9 Essential Experiences to Savour in Europe

Sea organs, ballet, pub crawls, museums... the continent has it all.  
9 Essential Experiences to Savour in Europe 8
Photo by: AFP Contributor/Contributor/AFP/Getty Images

Montreaux Jazz Festival, Switzerland

Set by the shores of Lac Léman, this historic jazz festival has been pulling music lovers from around the world since 1967. Only second in scale to Canada’s Montreal International Jazz Festival, the Montreaux Jazz Festival is held over two weeks in July each year. Its scope, however, is not limited to jazz alone. It remains a historical music destination, and has hosted the likes of David Bowie, James Brown, B.B. King, Carlos Santana, Patti Smith, Massive Attack, Björk, Radiohead, Leonard Cohen, and Prince in the past. The festival will run between 29 June and 14 July in 2018. There are ticketed concerts as well as open ones. The chance to soak up the sun along with soulful music all at once couldn’t get more delicious.

 

Canal tour in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Photo by: Chris Tobin/DigitalVisio/Getty Images

Photo by: Chris Tobin/DigitalVisio/Getty Images

Pick a sunny day to go on a canal cruise in Amsterdam. Glide along the leafy banks while sipping on a can of Heineken and peek into the gilded merchants’ palatial homes and townhouses that border the banks. Feast your eyes on Dutch architectural styles and learn about the history of this merchants’ city that has been a thriving business port for centuries.

 

Horse-drawn carriage ride through Kraków, Poland

Photo by: Huw Jones/ Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Photo by: Huw Jones/ Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Ditch the walking and hop onto a horse-drawn carriage for a ride around Kraków’s Old Town. One of the few East European cities to have escaped large-scale destruction during the World War II, this Polish city’s cobblestone streets are steeped in history and culture. A visit to the medieval Wawel Palace is always worth the time, as is exploring the market square when it comes alive with activity post sundown.

 

Pub crawl in Dublin, Ireland

Photo by: Andrea Pistolesi/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Photo by: Andrea Pistolesi/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Travelling can often be tiring and calls for frequent breaks. While you’re at it, do it right and bring in the cheer with a perfectly poured pint of Guinness in a homey ‘Dublin snug’. Follow the Guinness-drinking pilgrims on a Friday night, progressing from one watering hole to the next. Chances are that you’d pick up many a beer pal for the night. If you have literary inclinations, sign up for a literary pub crawl, a guided experience through some of the old haunts that inspired Irish luminaries such as James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett et al.

 

Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, Russia

Photo by: Mladen Antonov/Contributor/AFP/Getty Images

Photo by: Mladen Antonov/Contributor/AFP/Getty Images

One of the top romantic experiences to indulge in Europe has to be an evening spent at the Bolshoi theatre. Founded in 1776, the Bolshoi’s history documents the evolution of opera and ballet for over 240 years. The Bolshoi hasn’t had it easy all through these years because it has had to compete with its St Petersburg rival, the Imperial Russian Ballet. A renovation in 2011, though, cemented Bolshoi’s reputation as one of the grand theatres in the world. The Bolshoi’s Moscow season runs between October and May, presenting several Russian and international recitals. Booking in advance is necessary because of soaring demand.

 

Sea Organ in Zadar, Croatia

Photo by: Loop Images/Contributor/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Photo by: Loop Images/Contributor/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Marvel at the power of engineering and nature’s bounty in Croatia’s beachy Zadar. Created by local architect Nikola Bašić, the Sea Organ, which comprises a set of broad steps leading into the sea, offers a unique musical experience by making use of the wind and the ebb and flow of the sea against the steps. The lower steps allow water and air to flow in. That water and air is then funnelled into resonant chambers under the steps, and pushed out through the channels on the upper stairs. This movement creates the uneven, chime-like notes that fill the air. Because the sea is never still, the organ never produces the same note twice. This is one beach experience you wouldn’t quite want to miss.

 

Explore wine country, Bordeaux, France

Photo by: Mario Parnell/Photolibrary/Getty Images

Photo by: Mario Parnell/Photolibrary/Getty Images

If you’re touring France and have a love for wine, you cannot return without indulging in a leisurely wine trail in Bordeaux. Spend a day sipping French reds and whites in the Saint-Émilion and Pomerol regions. A typical wine tour includes a wine tasting and some sightseeing that may include erstwhile French chateaux and bustling village markets that sell everything from fresh bread to pickled olives. You must also dig into a picnic lunch and Bordeaux wines, local style.

 

Stay at the ICEHOTEL, Sweden

Photo by: Christian Science Monitor/Contributor/Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

Photo by: Christian Science Monitor/Contributor/Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

Europe’s glorious summer doesn’t need any introductions for keen travellers. But Europe’s winter remains a comparatively unexplored well of gems, mostly because of its really cold winters. But who wouldn’t want to experience the enchanting Northern Lights for fear of being cold? And while you’re marvelling at the greatest show of nature in the skies, book yourself a night at Sweden’s ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi, 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle. Sweden’s ICEHOTEL is open to visitors every year between December and April. It’s built afresh each year with blocks of ice harvested from the frozen Torne River. Every year it’s a brand new structure that comes up in place of the previous one that melts in summer. Along with being a natural wonder, it’s also a formidable work of art with artists and sculptors from all over the world commissioned each year to design its rooms. Spend a night staring at the Northern Lights while lying on a bed of ice. Worry not, you’ll be provided with all the necessary warm armour.

 

Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain

Photo by: Francisco Javie Dfez Porras/Contributor/Moment/Getty Images

Photo by: Francisco Javie Dfez Porras/Contributor/Moment/Getty Images

You ought to make time for one of modern architecture’s stunning symbols. Architect Frank Gehry’s audacious and daring titanium Museo Guggenheim Bilbao catapulted low-key industrial Bilbao into an art hotspot overnight. A design marvel, the museum’s structure showcases Gehry’s flamboyant canopies, cliffs, towers and flying fins arousing wonder and amusement. The vast museum interior, a light-filled atrium, is host to permanent as well as temporary exhibitions by artists and designers of repute. This is one stop your itinerary can’t do without.

 

If you need more reasons to visit Europe, go here; for a list of eight cities you must visit this year, go here; read about places to pamper your taste buds here; and raise your glasses to Europe’s finest brew here.

  • Debashree Majumdar is a failed skier and enthusiastic hiker. When travelling, she seeks out the hum of old neighbourhoods and the noise of bazaars. She is a freelance writer-editor and currently lives in Geneva.

Psst. Want a weekly dose of travel inspiration in your inbox?