From the birthplace of Western Civilisation to the most modern cities in the world: Europe encompasses the crumbling-cum-magnificent, the revolutionary, and everything in-between.
Is there another such continent that allows the traveler to whittle down their bucket list in such quick succession? It is the continent that almost exclusively boasted all of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and it’s near impossible to avoid the remnants of ancient genius of man; they’re littered across the ever-changing landscape.
Where else in the world could a full spectrum of emotion be served in 24 hours? Where one can be enveloped in the romance and glamour of Paris by morning, and feeling the ebb and flow of British nightlife on the streets of London by night?
With about 50 countries (depending on who you ask) at your fingertips, Europe has long been at the top of many a holidaymakers’ hit list.
After all, in a single holiday all four seasons can be experienced - from the ski slopes to pristine beaches to a sailboat.
But in a continent with so much to offer, the question remains: where does one start?
Well, Paris obviously.
Long a hotspot for dreamers, artists and romantics alike, the streets of Paris are steeped in history and glamour. Though the ever-photographed Eiffel Tower is a well-known starting point for most travellers, the city can’t be measured in must-sees; there are just too many.
But having experienced the Mona Lisa, Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe in all their glory - France’s capital needs to be taken in from above.
Whether it be alongside the gargoyles from atop the 300 step-high towers of Notre Dame, or taking in the sunset from the steps outside the Sacré Coeur Basilica, the city twinkles from every angle, punctuated by the church spires and looming silhouette of the Eiffel Tower.
A glass of Bordeaux red in hand, it’s easy to wax poetic about the City of Love.
But the true romance lies in the back streets of Paris. It’s where the winding alleys lead to clandestine gated courtyards, where Parisians stroll hand-in-hand, and where sitting at a roadside restaurant means cars often have to manoeuvre around diners.
It’s where people-watching at said restaurants becomes so all-encompassing it’s easy to forget there’s a steaming plate of Duck Confit under your nose.
And just when it seems there can’t be much more grandeur left in the world, a trip to the Palace of Versailles and its surrounding acres of awe-inspiring grounds will leave even the most seasoned traveler breathless. Beyond the Parisian borders, the famed French Riviera, Bordeaux, and Pyrenees, to name but a few, lie in wait. France is a country to let the imagination, and waistline, soar.
Just a short trip across the English Channel, London stands sentinel as the gateway to the United Kingdom. Where France’s effeminate self exudes graceful class and excellence, London is her brusque, domineering and proud older brother. The imposing faces of Big Ben watch over the gushing waters of the Thames, and Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral serve as figures of grandiosity in a world-class city that is as modern as it is ancient. Seeing the Square Mile on a woefully-cliché, but essential all the same, double-decker red bus is an experience for the travel journal, as is taking in an opera at the majestic Royal Albert Hall. The opulent changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace proves an opportunity to see the Queen’s Guard at their ceremonial best, whilst quietly hoping in vain one day there’ll be a glimpse of Liz.
By night, the crowds flock to the lights of Piccadilly Circus, or to sit front and centre to watch the stars prove their acting chops on the West End, between a Pimms or a London Porter at a quintessential English pub.
But few cities in the world, let alone Europe, can rival the glory of the 3,000-year-old streets of Rome. Between taking in the obvious sights of the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Sistine Chapel and a list of other famed historical sites to rival your grocery list, the Italian capital is also a foodie’s paradise. The lovingly produced pastas and pizzas, curated from generations-old recipes, can be found anywhere in the city - though the best haunts are found off the beaten track in the backstreets. Perhaps one of the highlights of the ancient metropolis is getting lost in the winding web of alleys and passages for a day, experiencing all the majesty the city has to offer.
And when the city has been conquered, Rome is a short hop from golden sand to relax by the seaside and mull over where to next; Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Barcelona…?