There are few things more synonymous with “classic” than Europe. But within that category, The Continent has its own quintessential, timeless destinations that make up the traditional backbone of time abroad.
Sure, there’s no end of images that flood any first-timer’s imagination when they imagine Europe. This small continent, the heart of the Western world, is densely packed with cultural, historical, spiritual, and architectural significance. There are royal palaces, splendid in riches; soaring churches and cathedrals anchoring every town; stoic castles with fortified courtyards; and mountains still wild to bring your mind’s eye upward. Ahead, picture cobblestone streets, pastoral valleys and countrysides, grand imperial cities, quaint villages, and waterfronts from charming and remote rivers to sophisticated and glam, with shopping districts that range the same way.
However, for anyone’s first trip to Europe, there are three classic, iconic cities that serve as a perfect introduction to the wonder of the old world. Three cities that offer modern convenience, familiarity with American travelers, yet plenty of characteristically European flavor and world-recognized landmarks to have a newbie raring for a return. Those three cities are London, Paris, and Rome.
The longtime seat of the mighty British Empire, England and the United Kingdom’s largest city, this incredibly important global capital on the River Thames is a blend of incredibly new and storied old. It was settled by Romans in AD 74 and known then as Londinium, and “the square mile” and its original wall remain silent witnesses to this history. However, instances of the ancient world are rare due to the Great Fire of London 1666, which saw the entire medieval city razed over the course of four terrifying days Because of this tragedy, despite its historical age, it’s paradoxically also one of the newest cities of classic Europe. While many old, charming neighborhoods persist, a glittery skyline of modern glass skyscrapers dazzle against the sky – symbols of progress, perseverance, and the enduring spirit of this unique and storied city.
Must-Sees: Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Shakespeare’s Globe, Kensington Palace, Charles Dickens Museum, Monument to the Great Fire of London, The Borough Market, Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel, London Wall, London Eye
Day Trips with Viator and ALG Vacations®: Stonehenge, Bath, Windsor Castle, Oxford, Cotswolds, Canterbury, Cliffs of Dover
- Riu Plaza London Victoria in central London, just a few minutes walk from Victoria Station in Westminster near major landmarks. Free WiFi, available full breakfast buffet, 24-hour modern gym, modern rooms. Awarded Travelife Gold certification for sustainability.
- ME London, an iconic London hotel right on The Strand by Covent Carden in the original Marconi House with artistic nods to its historic ties to BBC radio and art gallery displays. STK Restaurant and Gino D’Acampo Lucciano’s on site make this a locals’ destination as well. One of the best views in London over the Thames … and even better from the Ultimate ME+ Penthouse Suite with two private terraces and direct entrance to Radio Rooftop.
One of the most romantic cities in Europe, per centuries of popular opinion, “Paris is always a good idea.” It’s a leading city for fashion, art, wine, cuisine, and architecture – all of the things that bring joie de vie into our earthly existences. These are the pursuits that make it a sophisticated cultural hub and a cornerstone to any introduction to Europe. Commercially, its diplomatic might and agricultural production has been the key to its continued power as one of the world’s oldest nations. Perhaps that’s why a Parisian sojourn is considered one of the most fulfilling and complete segues into a lifelong love affair with a European way of life.
Must-Sees: Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysees, Seine River, the Louvre Museum, Paris Catacombs, Montmartre Hill, Orsay Museum, Arc de Triomphe, Le Marais, Galeries Lafayette, Jardin des Tuileries, Notre Dame Cathedral, Sacre-Coeur Basilica, Moulin Rouge, Marche des Enfants Rouges
Day Trips with Viator and ALG Vacations®: Palace of Versailles, Disneyland® Paris, Normandy/Normandy D-Day beaches, Mont-Saint-Michel, Loire Valley and castles, Champagne, Giverny Monet House
- Hotel Villa Marqui, Member of Meliá Collection is a series of fashionable contradictions – quiet yet in the city center, historically influenced but thoroughly refurbished with modern luxurious touches, right in the luxury district, but easily walkable to public transit as well as the Eiffel Tower. A beautiful glassed-in breakfast patio offers splendid views of the city, surpassed perhaps only by a helicopter trip to Chateau de Cheverny, part of their singular Guest Experiences program. Other high-end amenities include upon request services like a Champagne, fruit, and sable cookie VIP Welcome perks, a contemporary fitness room, and on-site Restaurant Dos Almas for Spanish-French cuisine.
Learn more in our France & Monaco Travelogue; this edition also includes a ready-made seven-day curated itinerary to share with your clients!
What hasn’t been said of one of the seat of one of the most powerful, influential empires of the Western world, from which (literally) sprang aqueducts and paved roads and gave us the calendar we use today to count down to our next vacation? Poetically known as the Eternal City, the capital of the Lazio region of central Italy truly is exactly that – one that’s foundational to the history of many nations and yet still relevant to the ongoing story of Western civilization. An obvious, unarguable must for anyone looking to understand better what has made Europe what it is.
Must-Sees: The Colosseum, Roman Forum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Campo di Fiore, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, Villa and Galleria Borghese, Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, Trastavere, Palatine Hill, the Old Jewish Quarter/Ghetto, Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary
Day Trips with Viator and ALG Vacations®: Pompeii, Tuscany, wine tours, Positano, Capri, Amalfi Coast, Florence, Pisa
- Villa Agrippina Gran Meliá is a unique stay in that it’s central to Rome – the closest hotel to the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, near the trendy Trastavere district, offering panoramic views of the city and its famous seven hills – yet also separated from it by enormous Mediterranean gardens as befitting a grand country estate. With a (rare for this city) outdoor pool, a Clarins spa, on-site Italian restaurant Ossimoro, and designation as a Leading Hotel of the World that’s also fresh off a full renovation, this luxury hotel makes it so that visitors need not choose between a city or country experience.
Learn more in our Italy Travelogue and view other nearby, well-connected cities to add convenient destinations to a grand tour.