Planning a trip to Central or Eastern Europe and not sure where to start? Here are our absolute must-do experiences in this incredible part of the world.
1 | Live a fairy tale at Neuschwanstein Castle.
It looks like it’s straight out of a fairy tale, and in fact it was the very inspiration for Disneyland Castle. The interiors are lavishly decorated with gorgeous frescoes of bright red, blue — and most prominently, gold!
HOT TIP: Ask your House of Travel consultant about day tours from Munich.
2 | Step back in time at Memento Park.
One of the defining moments in the Hungarian Revolution and the Fall of Communism in Europe in general was the toppling of Stalin’s statue in Budapest which famously left only his boots on the plinth and his decapitated bronze head rolling around the streets. However not all statues to communism in the city met this fate. Most were more civilly removed and relocated to Memento Park.
HOT TIP: If you’re not a communism aficionado, grab the cheap guide book or take an escorted tour from the visitors centre so you know who you’re looking at.
3 | Gorge on some Gouda.
Cheese. Enough said right? The Netherlands is famous for its cheese and the best place to experience it is at the 750 year old Alkmaar Cheesemarket. Watch with bemusement as the clog wearing traditional cheese porters carry in the massive rounds of cheese and then a commotion of clapping and yelling ensues while they haggle over the prices.
HOT TIP: Grab yourself a hearty cut, some fresh bread and fixings — and find a picturesque spot in front of the windmills for a picnic.
4 | Cruise on the 'lifeblood of Europe.'
The mighty Danube River flows through no fewer than 10 countries in Europe and has long been the lifeblood of the continent. Visiting beautiful cities such as Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava and many other riverside gems on an extended river cruise has never been easier.
HOT TIP: Ask about House of Travel’s special departures which are fully escorted all the way from New Zealand.
5 | Trink dich fur bliss: drink yourself for bliss, german style!
Suspiciously starting in September, Oktoberfest is one of the most popular festivals in Europe. Few people know it originally started off as a celebration of the Prince of Bavaria’s wedding in 1810, and even less people care. Today it’s all about the beer! The festival runs for 16 days and during that time, nearly 8,000,000 litres of Munich’s finest is chugged down. But it’s not all about drinking. Food is an important part of the festival and traditional Bavarian favourites including Wurstl, Sauerkraut and Weisswurst are widely served.
HOT TIP: Be sure to see your travel consultant early if you wish to attend, Oktoberfest is a guaranteed sell out every year.
6 | Bear witness to the Holocaust.
It’s very sombre, but a visit to a WWII-era concentration camp or museumdedicated to the Holocaust is a moving and important part of visiting these countries. Camps can be visited in Poland, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic. Most cities and towns has a memorial or museum. Not a light experience, but a profound one.
HOT TIP: Anne Frank’s House, Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews and Budapest’s Shoes on the Danube are amongst the most moving memorials you'll find in Europe.
7 | Hike, ski, snowboard or snowshoe the Alps.
The Alps are the highest and most extensive mountain range in Europe (excluding Russia) and stretch all the way through eight countries. Peppered throughout the mountains are many well known ski resorts, and these aren’t like anything we have in New Zealand! Whole towns are built on the mountains complete with hotels, restaurants and everything ski. Try rubbing skis with the rich and famous in St Moritz and Val-d'Isere, or relive Annelise Coberger’s 1992 silver medal winning run in Albertville.
HOT TIP: Ski season is usually late September to early May and House of Travel can arrange all your equipment needs.