Top 30 of the best historical sites in Europe
Top 30 of the best historical sites in Europe
30 amazing historical sites
to see in Europe
If you like history and its heritage, this page should interest you as you will discover my top 30 best historical sites in Europe.
In this list, you will discover different types of historical sites from different eras such as Neolithic sites dating back to several millennia BC, amphitheatres from the Roman Empire, magnificent castles from the Middle Ages or the Renaissance, imposing buildings from various religions, and other places where the events that took place there have marked history forever.
In addition to a map to help you find them, you will also find for each of these historical sites, general information, useful links to find out for example the opening hours and the current prices, as well as my own photos.
Through this top 30 of the best historical sites in Europe, you will travel between the West of Europe, from the incredible megalithic monument of Stonehenge in the UK, or the landing beaches in France, to the East of the European continent with for example the castle of Trakai in Lithuania or the one of Mir in Belarus. In northern Europe, you will also discover the Althing founded in 930 on the site of Þingvellir in Iceland, and in southern Europe, the Alhambra palace complex in Granada, Spain, or the famous acropolis of Athens in Greece. In Central Europe, you will surely learn more about very interesting and beautiful historical sites such as the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, the Wieliczka salt mines near Krakow in Poland or the amphitheatre in Verona, as well as many other important historical places in the four corners of the old continent.
Finally, if you visit Europe, don’t forget to explore its beautiful natural landscapes (mountains, waterfalls, canyons, lakes…) and enjoy its superb beaches.
Don’t take too much notice of the order of this ranking, the historical sites presented on this page are all beautiful and interesting. I think it would be very subjective to make a precise ranking of them as our criteria of interest are so different from each other. One thing is certain, you will learn a lot and be transported back in time, during the visit of these places full of history.
Map of the best historical sites in Europe
Top 30 of the best historical sites in Europe
Built between 72 and 80 AD, the Colosseum is a huge amphitheatre in the centre of Rome, Italy. This magnificent historical site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the 7 wonders of the world. It was the largest amphitheatre ever built by the Roman Empire and one of its finest masterpieces of architecture and engineering. With a capacity of 50,000 people, the Colosseum was a theatre where the Romans entertained themselves with gladiatorial battles, re-enactments of naval battles, executions of condemned men and wild animal hunts. After more than 5 centuries of use, the Colosseum was plundered, suffered earthquakes and was even bombed during the Second World War.
Nowadays, a visit to the Colosseum is a must in Rome and even on a trip to Italy. In high season, I strongly advise you to book your ticket in advance on the internet to avoid queuing for too long. Below you will find some excursions to help you visit Rome, the Colosseum or the Vatican :
The castle of Versailles is a historical monument located in the beautiful city of Versailles near Paris in France. Originally a simple hunting castle during the reign of Louis XIII, it was Louis XIV who had the palace built as we know it today. Louis XIV had the Grand Apartments of the King and Queen built, and commissioned André Le Nôtre to create and design the magnificent gardens of Versailles. Another of the most famous rooms in the château is the Hall of Mirrors, designed by Mansart. With his successors, Louis XV and Louis XVI, the expansion of the château continued with the construction of the Chapel and the Opera House.
The castle of Versailles, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, now has 63,154 m² divided into 2,300 rooms. In summer, you can also take part in the beautiful spectacle of the Great Waters and the Musical Gardens.
In high season, it is advisable to book your ticket in advance to avoid queuing for too long. Below you will find some solutions to help you visit the castle of Versailles :
Located in the south of England not far from Salisbury, Stonehenge is certainly the most famous megalithic monument in the country and one of the most beautiful in Europe. Built between 2800 and 1100 BC, this symbol of humanity’s ancient knowledge is made up of circles of menhirs arranged in an order with astronomical meanings that are still poorly explained. This prehistoric sanctuary, which still holds many mysteries, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. If you go to Stonehenge, you can also visit its museum, which presents around 200 archaeological remains and the reconstruction of a Neolithic village.
From London you can spend the day visiting this famous historical site and others nearby such as the city of Bath or Windsor Castle with these tours for example :
The Acropolis of Athens is a 156-metre high limestone plateau in the centre of the city of Athens, Greece. This strategic position allowed the citadel and religious sanctuaries built on the acropolis to resist the Ottoman occupation during antiquity.
Originally stretching for about 300 metres from east to west and 85 metres from north to south, the plateau was extended by 150 metres in the 5th century BC. Initially a residential area, the acropolis was later a fortress, before becoming a large sanctuary mainly dedicated to the worship of the goddess Athena. During a visit to this magnificent historical site, which I highly recommend, you will be able to discover the monumental and emblematic Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the theatre of Dionysus and the temple of Athena Nike.
This incredible architectural and artistic ensemble bequeathed to us by ancient Greece has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, and is one of the most visited tourist sites in the world and one the best historical site in Europe.
Below you will find some excursions to help you visit the Acropolis and the city of Athens :
A symbol of the Cold War in Europe, and later of the reunification of East and West Germany, the Berlin Wall represents an important part of 20th century history.
At the end of the Second World War, Berlin was divided into four sectors of occupation: Soviet, American, French and British. As a result of the poor relations between the communists and the allies, the country was divided into the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR), each with its own currency and political ideals. Following the exodus of people from the GDR to the FRG (especially the high potentials), the GDR decided to build a wall between the two zones in 1961.
First made of barbed wire, then of bricks, and finally of concrete, this 4-metre high wall was erected between the two Germanies. Between 1961 and 1989, more than 5,000 people tried to cross the wall, more than 3,000 were arrested and about 100 died trying to cross it.
On 9 November 1989, the Berlin Wall came down and thousands of people gathered at the checkpoints to cross to the other side. After 28 years of separation, some families and friends were finally able to meet again.
Today, traces of the Wall can be found in many places, including remnants and memorial sites such as the Berlin Wall Memorial at Bernauer Strasse, Potsdamer Platz, Checkpoint Charlie or the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial, a former Stasi prison and the Mauerpark. Don’t miss the East Side Gallery, the longest remaining section of the Berlin Wall, which is covered with the works of art of over 100 different artists. One of the most famous is probably the “Brotherly Kiss” depicting the kiss between SED President Erich Honecker and Russian leader Leonid Brezhnev.
For more information on the city of Berlin, visit https://www.visitberlin.de/en and to discover the Berlin Wall in more detail, here are some possible excursions :
Located on the Ile de la Cité in Paris, France, Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the most emblematic monuments of Paris and France. The construction of this Catholic place of worship, seat of the Archdiocese of Paris and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, took place between 1163 and 1345. Work began under the reign of Louis VII by Bishop Maurice de Sully, on the site of a former church of Childebert and a 4th-century temple of Apollo. In addition to being a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, Notre-Dame de Paris was also popularised by Victor Hugo’s historical novel of the same name, published in 1831 and set in the majestic cathedral.
Notre-Dame de Paris was one of the most visited monuments in France with around ten million visitors per year, until the tragic fire on 15 April 2019 which sadly ravaged this incredible building, but which will be renovated to its original state in the coming years.
To visit this sumptuous cathedral as well as the city of Paris, the excursions below should help you :
Located in the hills of Sintra, about thirty kilometres from the capital of Portugal, Lisbon, the Pena Palace is a magnificent historical building that I recommend you discover. In the heart of a 200-hectare park, you can admire this jewel of Portuguese romantic architecture, whose construction began in 1840 under the orders of King Ferdinand II. It was King Ferdinand II who bought the ruins of the old monastery that was originally on top of this hill and undertook the restoration of the monastery (red buildings) and the construction of the new palace (yellow buildings). This beautiful and colourful building was completed in 1854 and became the summer residence of the royal family. If you visit Portugal and especially the beautiful and pleasant city of Lisbon, don’t miss to admire this original palace combining harmoniously neo-romantic, Manueline, neo-Gothic, neo-Moorish and even Indian styles.
For more information such as opening times and prices, I suggest you visit the official website of the Pena Palace :
To help you visit, I suggest you book your ticket in advance (especially in high season), or go through these tours :
The Pula Amphitheatre, also known as the Pula Colosseum, is a well-preserved Roman amphitheatre located in Pula, in the Istria region of Croatia. The amphitheatre was built during the reign of the emperors Augustus and Vespasian between 27 and 68 AD.
At 35 metres high, 133 metres long and 105 metres wide, this splendid amphitheatre is among the largest built by the Romans. In ancient times, up to 24,000 spectators attended gladiatorial fights. Like other imposing constructions of the Roman Empire, the amphitheatre of Pula was reused for other functions during the Middle Ages, such as tournaments of chivalry, fairs… Its stones were also reused for the construction of other buildings of the city of Pula, including its castle in the 15th century.
In the 18th century, work began on the restoration of the Pula amphitheatre. Nowadays, it can accommodate up to 5,000 people and is used for plays, the Pula Film Festival and concerts (Norah Jones, Elton John, Sting… have sung there). In the basement, you can also visit its permanent exhibition on viticulture and oyster farming in ancient times.
For more information such as timetables, prices, the amphitheatre and other activities in the city, I recommend you to visit the website of the city of Pula .
To help you visit, I advise you to book your ticket in advance (especially in high season), or to go through these excursions :
Located in the French department of Dordogne, the Lascaux cave is one of the most important decorated caves of the Upper Paleolithic due to the aesthetic quality of its paintings and engravings, as well as their large number and quality of preservation. This cave is so beautiful and important that it is also sometimes called “the Sistine Chapel of Cave Art” or the “Versailles of Prehistory”. You will be able to immerse yourself in paintings and engravings representing the life of men from around 19,000 or 17,000 years ago, depending on the dating of the objects discovered in this cave. Discovered in September 1940 by four young French teenagers, it will be made accessible to the public.
In order to preserve the original cave and to make it more and more interesting to visit, numerous facilities and different services have been added over the years. In 1983 (called Lascaux 2) and 2012 (Lascaux 3), rooms were built that are exact copies of the original cave. Since 2016, you can also visit an international centre of cave art which includes, a complete facsimile of all the decorated parts of the Lascaux cave: bull room, axial diverticulum, well, apse, nave… which is called Lascaux 4.
With the links below, you can book your ticket in advance :
Trakai Island Castle is located in southern Lithuania, about 25 kilometres from Vilnius. This island castle, which is unique in that it was built on an island in Lake Galvė, is a must-see site in Lithuania. In the 15th century, the original fortress was transformed into a residence for the Grand Dukes of Lithuania: Kęstutis and his son Vytautas. At that time, the city of Trakai was the main centre of the Grand Duchy and Lithuania one of the largest countries in Europe. Trakai Castle was also used as a prison and nowadays it houses the Trakai History Museum.
In the vicinity of the castle, don’t miss to taste the local speciality: “Kibinine”, which is a kind of doughnut with mutton or other fillings.
If you visit Vilnius in Lithuania, I recommend you to visit the beautiful Trakai Castle to admire its turrets, its keep and more generally its very beautiful natural setting.
To help you visit this beautiful castle, I suggest you book your ticket in advance (especially in high season), or go through these excursions :
Þingvellir, which means “the plain of the Parliament” in Icelandic, is a historical site and national park in southwest Iceland. Not far from the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, this natural site has the distinction of having hosted events that are at the heart of Icelandic national history. The Alþing, one of the oldest parliaments in the world, was founded on the Þingvellir plain in 930. Local chiefs from all over Iceland met here to form an assembly that would later become the parliament, and which would regulate laws or social problems on the island.
Nowadays, Þingvellir is one of the most visited sites in Iceland as it is, along with the beautiful Gullfoss waterfall and the Geysir geothermal field, part of the country’s most popular tourist circuit, known as the Golden Circle.
To help you prepare for your visit, I suggest the following excursions :
St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is a neo-Byzantine Orthodox cathedral located in the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia. The construction of this magnificent building began in 1882, in honour of the Russian soldiers who fell in the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-1878, which liberated Bulgaria from the Ottoman yoke. The design of the cathedral was completed in 1898 by Alexander Pomerantsev, with the help of Alexander Smirnov and Alexander Yakovlev. It was opened to the public in 1924.
With its five naves and three altars, St. Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral in Sofia can hold almost 10,000 worshippers. It is the largest cathedral on the Balkan Peninsula and one of the largest in the Orthodox world. This architectural jewel is also known for its large and beautiful central dome gilded with fine gold, which rises to a height of 45 metres. Its bell tower is over 50 metres high and has a carillon of 12 bells weighing over 23 tonnes. The interior of the cathedral is not to be outdone either, with decorations made of Italian marble, Brazilian onyx, alabaster and other precious materials. If you visit this cathedral, you can also discover its museum of sacred art, which is located in the crypt. You will see liturgical objects, manuscripts, wall paintings and the most important collection of icons in Europe.
To visit this magnificent cathedral and the city of Sofia, I suggest the following excursions :
In the southern German region of Bavaria, don’t miss a visit to the sublime Neuschwanstein Castle, which stands on a 200-metre high rocky spur. The construction of this neo-Gothic and medieval castle began in 1869 at the request of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. After his death in 1886, Neuschwanstein Castle was opened to the public. Walt Disney himself visited the castle and used it as the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty Castle. This fairytale castle is just as beautiful from the outside as it is from the inside, which is why it attracts more than 10,000 visitors a day in high season.
Remember to book your visit in advance as the day’s tickets sell out quickly in the morning and you will probably have to queue.
To help you visit this beautiful castle, which is one of the best historical sites in Europe, I suggest the following excursions :
Pompeii is an ancient city and town not far from Naples in Italy. It is known to have been buried by volcanic ash when the volcano of Vesuvius erupted in the autumn of 79 AD.
Pompeii was then forgotten and rediscovered in the 16th century. The first excavations were undertaken in 1748, and the city was unearthed. Because of the violence and suddenness of the eruption, the city and the remains of its inhabitants have been well preserved to the present day. On this magnificent historical site, you will be able to admire many buildings from the Roman era, such as the remains of rich and well-decorated villas, a Roman amphitheatre, temples, a basilica, a gladiatorial barracks and many other things. You can also see the statues of the inhabitants of Pompeii who were covered and frozen by the ash of the volcano, showing their facial expressions and their position at the time of their death.
You can easily spend a whole day visiting, alone or with a guide, this most incredible historical site in Europe, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.
In high season it is advisable to book your ticket in advance, these links below should help you :
The archaeological site of Butrint is located in southern Albania, near the town of Saranda. Occupied since prehistoric times (the oldest traces date back to 50,000 BC), the site of Butrint was successively the seat of a Greek colony, a Roman town and then a bishopric. Depending on the period, Butrint had its ups and downs; it was great under the administration of Byzantium and then during the brief Venetian occupation. However, at the end of the Middle Ages, the town was abandoned by its population due to the presence of swamps. The archaeological interest of this site comes from its ruins, which are representative of the different periods of occupation. You will find ancient fortifications from Greek, Roman and medieval times. One of the most interesting monuments is the Greek theatre, which is still well preserved.
To visit this archaeological site and better understand its history, the excursions I suggest below should help you :
Let’s share our information! Let us know what other places you think should be in this top 30 of the best historical sites in Europe.
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