15 January 2018
Western Europe offers an array of cultural delights, culinary experiences, historical landmarks and natural sites for you to explore. Here are our top three Western European destinations to visit in 2018…
A treasure trove of exciting experiences await in Spain. The capital Madrid hosts intriguing sights including its grand 2000-room Royal Palace, the idyllic Buen Retiro Park with its breath-taking rose garden and the Prado Museum where you can view masterpieces created by the likes of Velazquez. In Barcelona you can admire impressive Gaudi architecture such as the Sagrada Familia, tour the Neu Camp football stadium or shop at the designer stores which line Las Ramblas. Valencia is another great city to visit, as it houses must-see sights like the gothic-style Torres de Quart, the Museo de la Almoina with its ancient Roman baths and architectural marvel the L'Oceanogràfic aquarium which features over 500 marine species.
This sun-dappled destination is the ideal place for a beach holiday. Relax on golden sands in Gran Canaria’s Playa del Inglés, book an invigorating wind-surfing session at Majorca’s Cala Mesquida, try water sports ranging from jet-skiing to flyboarding on the idyllic beaches of Puerto Banus, or take your kids snorkelling at El Puertito, where they might spot sea turtles! Spain is perfect for families, with various things to see and do. Ride lazy rivers and water slides at PortAventura in Tarragona, head to Barcelona’s Tibidabo Amusement Park and experience 360-degree turns on the ‘Hurakan’ ride, or hike up a volcano in Tenerife’s spectacular Teide National Park.
There are so many unique adventures to embark upon in Spain. Head to Gran Canaria and try the world-famous aloe vera treatments at its soothing spas, like the Hotel Santa Catalina spa’s ‘aloe vera and honey peels’. The island is also home to Europe’s largest thalassotherapy centre at the Thalasso Gloria Palace San Agustin, as well as professional-grade golf courses like the 71-par Lopesan Merloneras facility in Las Palmas with its spectacular ocean views. For a real adventure go ziplining over the River Guadiana which separates Spain from Portugal. You can also enrich your mind at the Salvador Dali Museum, based in his home town of Figueres, or savour traditional treats such as ‘pintxos’ finger foods and flavourful ‘idiazabal’ cheese in the culturally rich Basque Country.
Some of the world’s most iconic attractions can be found in France. Tick off bucket list-items in Paris such as the Eiffel Tower and the trendy Latin Quarter with its quirky book shops, as well as the Sacre Coeur and the Arc de Triomphe. Immerse yourself in the cultural melting pot which is Marseille, with landmarks like the grand Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica, the idyllic old port with its many marinas and the Palais Longchamp, known for its ornate water fall. Tour the world-renowned French Riviera where you can chill on the golden sands of St Tropez or walk in the footsteps of A-listers at Cannes’ Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. While you’re in the French Riviera hop across the border to Monaco and view the grand yachts of the rich and famous.
Impressive natural sights await in this visually arresting country. Climb Europe’s highest peak Mont Blanc, take in the striking red granite ‘Bavella Needles’ of Corsica or stroll through the pretty lavender fields of Provence. France is filled with various historical wonders; observe the astronomical clock of Strasbourg Cathedral which is over a thousand years old, tour World War Two battle sites in Normandy such as Omaha Beach, or see the landmark Roman aqueduct at Pont du Gard. Your children will love France, as there’s so many family friendlysights. See monkeys at Lyon Zoo, swim in the shallow waters which hug the La Rochelle coastline, watch historical re-enactments at the Puy du Fou theme park in Les Epesses, or ride Disneyland Paris’ ‘Space Mountain’!
There are some experiences you can only find in France. Enjoy some of the best shopping in the world on Paris’ legendary Champs Elysees, which is home to brands such as Louis Vuitton, Swarovski, Gucci and Channel. Sample Champagne’s most famous product at the sprawling vineyards of houses like Veuve Clicquot and Dom Perignon, or savour the bold red wines produced along the banks of Bordeaux’s Gironde River. Taste the country’s iconic cheeses like the soft ‘brie’ and Savoy’s ancient ‘Tomme de Savoie’ or world-famous dishes such as ‘bouillabaisse’ fish stew. You can even view some of the planet’s most famous artworks, from Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ in Paris’ Louvre to Van Gogh’s ‘The Yellow House’ in Arles!
Culturally diverse Switzerland is a treat for the senses, with so much to discover. Some of its most famous attractions include Lake Constance, where you can try water sports ranging from sailing to windsurfing, the dramatic Matterhorn mountain and the Romanesque cathedral of Grossmünster in Zurich. In this charming city you’ll discover an array of intriguing sights like the 11th century Fraumünster church with its copper-topped spires,the Swiss National Museum and the Zürich Zoologischer Garten where you can see rhinos. French-speaking Switzerland’s biggest city is Geneva, where you can check out dramatic aquatic landmark the ‘jet d’eau’, the UN’s grand Palace of Nations and the headquarters of the International Red Cross. In the capital Bern you can visit the ‘Einstein Haus’, meet brown bears at the enclosures of Bärengraben or go rafting on the Aare River.
A host of memorable experiences can be found in Switzerland. Head to the town of Gruyères and try its eponymous cheese, or treat your children with a trip to the artisan chocolate shops of Zurich such as the Teuscher store which is famous for its cookies. While you’re here pick up one of Zurich’s legendary time pieces at the boutiques lining the famed Bahnhofstrasse shopping street, or buy an ornate cuckoo clock while wandering through Geneva. Switzerland is home to some of the best ski resorts in the world including Zermatt which has the largest ski lift in Europe and Villars, where you’ll find 100 km of ski slopes. Other exciting experiences await you in Switzerland from wine tasting in the idyllic Lavaux region to trekking across the Aletsch glacier, Europe’s longest ice flow.
Cultural enthusiasts, Switzerland is the place for you. In Montreux you can see where Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of iconic band Queen, spent his final days. Nearby you’ll find the enchanting Chillion Castle on Lake Geneva, whose dungeons inspired the writer Lord Byron, while the surrounding Alpine mountains sparked creative magic in his contemporaries like Frankenstein writer Mary Shelley. There are various family-friendly attractions in Switzerland like the village of Grindlewald – which features Europe’s longest sledge run – Lake Lucerne with its pristine beaches and the Swiss Vapeur Parc amusement park in Port-Valais. With other striking landmarks ranging from the arresting Rhine Falls to the Kapellbrücke bridge, Switzerland is a dream holiday destination.