Category Filtering: 'travel-tips'
Traveling in general can be nerve-wracking, but going to a new continent, full of people that don’t speak your language? That can be intimidating!
It’s completely normal to feel a bit nervous before your trip, especially if it’s your first time in a new place. But there are some things that you can do to calm your nerves and prepare for the trip of your dreams.
When you’re flying far to get somewhere and it may be the one time you go, it can be tempting to try and cram as much as possible into each day. But there’s a more balanced approach that helps you enjoy your Europe trip.
There are two ways to get the most out of your trip. Either focus on a few places and take the time to get to know each place for up to a week.
Or, book with a tour operator who knows the area and can smoothen your transitions. Traveling within a country can take far more time than you might imagine. When you book a tour, all the transfers and details are taken care of, so you’re not spending your valuable time figuring out the public transport systems.
OK, so we’ve talked about how booking a tour can help streamline transfers, but there’s so much more to it than that.
Good tour groups have been planning and executing these trips for years. They know the destination, and they know their customer, you. They can help you get the most out of your trip, and lift the pressure off you to do everything yourself.
In many cases, local guides will accompany tour groups, providing history and local stories that you’d never get the chance to hear otherwise. You’d certainly never find them in a guide book! For example, the local guides can point out their favorite place to eat and what local specialties to order, or more profoundly, tell you where they were when the Berlin wall fell and what it meant to their family.
One way to make a foreign country feel more familiar is to choose a destination that has some connection to you or your family. Maybe it’s heading to England to find out more about your ancestry, or visiting the place where a family member fought in a war.
But it doesn’t have to be serious! So much has happened in Europe. Visit Prague to see where they filmed The Talented Mr. Ripley or check out the sites where the Sound of Music was filmed.
That added element of connection really helps to add a sense of depth to an unfamiliar place.
Some people prefer to see a new place from the hiking trails, the water, or the narrow streets of tiny villages. Others like to feel ancient cobbles underfoot, exploring the alleys and byways of a new city. Whichever you decide you prefer, they each offer different things.
Cities tend to be bustling, busy places full of things to do and places to visit. But personal connection can be lacking. Spending time in smaller towns and villages can allow you to get to know locals better than you otherwise might.
The great thing about Europe is that there are plenty of options, no matter which one you choose. You can also quite easily blend these types of experiences, having a little bit of all of them.
One of the intimidating parts of traveling to non-English speaking places is the language barrier. But if there’s one thing you do before you go, it’s this: Try to learn a few phrases in the local language.
Ordering “due cappuccino, per favore” (two cappuccinos, please) will immediately endear you to the Italian cafe owner, easing your transition into English after that point. You don’t have to be fluent, but a little goes a long way. Oh, and resist the urge to shout louder in English!
Another way to add a sense of connection to a place is to get an idea of its history. In Italy, you can research the Roman Empire, in Germany, find out more about the World Wars, in France, you can learn about Napoleon and the food culture.
Tours and guides will be able to give you interesting information, but often, visiting a location makes more sense when you have a bit of background and a sense of its significance.
Your own constraints may dictate when you’re able to travel, but if you’re free to go whenever you like, we suggest planning around all types of holidays.
In the summer months, the schools throughout the northern hemisphere go on holiday. That means that between June and August many resorts and attractions will be at capacity. August is also a popular time for local Europeans to take their own holidays, closing many restaurants and shops, as well as a few attractions.
In winter, some attractions will be closed over the Christmas and New Year period, affecting your ability to visit them. If you want to find out more about these holidays, you can check out the Image Tours brochure for a full page on the different holidays celebrated in Europe.
Some places offer something extra special in certain seasons. Try visiting the Netherlands during the Dutch tulip season, for a profusion of color you’ll hardly be able to believe. Visit Munich, Germany in late September when the Oktoberfest is in full swing with a festive atmosphere and opportunities to mingle with locals over beer, brats and pretzels.
Slovenia is known for its incredible fall foliage; Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France share the Alps, which is a fantastic place to visit any time of year with different but equally beautiful landscapes during each season. There are so many incredible seasonal sights to see!
One thing everyone wants to know is how much they should budget to spend per day while they are on holiday. Unfortunately, that’s a very difficult question to answer. It depends on so many variables.
For example, costs vary significantly from country to country. Traveling in Portugal, for example, can be quite affordable, whereas Switzerland is notoriously expensive. What you choose to do in each country will also affect your costs. Fine dining will cost more than street food, and some attractions cost a lot while others are free!
You can use this in your favor though. Work out where you want to go, then tailor the amount of time you spend in each place depending on how much you have to spend in each location.
Most of Europe drives on the right side of the road, as in the US, except for the United Kingdom, Ireland, Malta and Cyprus. Public transport in Europe is generally pretty good, with trains operating in most cities and between most major hubs.
Not everyone wants to drive themselves around on holiday. We get that! Driving can be really tiring, especially when you aren’t familiar with the area. That’s another reason to book a tour. With Image Tours, all transport is included in the cost, by whichever method makes the most sense.
So although travel can be nerve-wracking, we hope these tips and tricks help ease some of your fears.
One of the very best ways to see a new place for the first time is with a tour operator who has been in business running tours to your destination for years. If you’re ready to start planning your first trip to Europe, you can get our free travel brochure with all of our trips and tours.
G. Brown - Moline, IL
It would be hard to miss the marks left across Europe from World War II. The war hit the continent hard, destroying much in its path. Many monuments, buildings, cultural artifacts, and of course lives were lost during this time.
While the war significantly impacted the 20th century, we wouldn’t be where we are today without it. It’s important to take time to visit the places where the world was so drastically altered, and there’s no better way to see it all than with a European World War II Memorial Tour.
In 1945, the war was finally over. But the leaders of the Nazi party still needed to answer for their crimes. And so, the Nuremberg Trials took place in Germany, bringing many to justice.
Nuremberg was chosen for a few reasons: its Palace of Justice remained relatively undamaged and had a large prison to keep the war criminals. Nuremberg was also an important platform for Nazi rallies. Having the trials there marked the end of the Nazi era.
While visiting Nuremberg, stop by the Nazi Party Rally Grounds where many of the propaganda speeches took place to get an idea of the scope of these rallies. You can also visit the Palace of Justice to see exactly where the trials occurred and justice prevailed.
The Dachau Concentration Camp was the first of its kind in Germany. It opened in 1933 as a prison for political prisoners, but was soon turned into a death camp. Those who were not executed worked as slaves, often suffering from malnutrition and injuries. While the prisoners consisted mainly of Jews, other groups of people, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, artists, the mentally and physically disabled, and homosexuals were also held captive.
As you walk through the camp, reflect on what happened here. Think of how you can ensure the world will not abuse or kill people simply for their heritage, beliefs, disabilities, or other differences. Our differences are what make us special, they should never be what separates us.
Near Salzburg is Eagle’s Nest, a hideaway mountain home of Hitler’s. It was presented to him in 1939 as a gift for his 50th birthday. An ornately decorated elevator takes guests the final 124 meters to the top of the mountain. Inside, you can see the remains of a red, marble fireplace. The marble was a gift from Mussolini, but Allied soldiers chipped off pieces as souvenirs after their victory.
Salzburg is also the birthplace of celebrated composer, Mozart, and the filming location of one of the most beloved movies of all time The Sound of Music. Many old Hollywood films were filmed on sound stages, but The Sound of Music was filmed on location in Salzburg.
Erwin Rommel was a German general forced to choose death after being suspected of a murder plot against Hitler. Rommel bit into a cyanide capsule in exchange for immunity for his family.
Visit his grave near Ulm, a German town on the northern edge of Germany’s Black Forest known for its record-breaking church steeple at Ulm Minster—it’s the tallest in the world.
One important site for Americans in France, is the Lorraine American Cemetery, the largest American cemetery in Europe. Stop to pay your respects to the almost 11,000 fallen American heroes laid to rest there. As you walk around, be sure to check out the many monuments and memorials throughout the cemetery, paying homage to those who lost their lives for our freedom.
The Vosges Mountains were the site of heavy fighting in the fall of 1944. The town of Saverne is nearby, and its liberation bolstered the French Army and other Allies towards winning the war just a year later. Pushing the Germans out of Saverne and nearby Strasbourg was not an easy fight, but it helped the Allied forces and France enormously.
Visit Fort Hackenberg, part of The Maginot Line, intended to prevent German forces from crossing into France, which did not succeed.
Every American knows the name, George S. Patton. He was instrumental in winning the war for the Allies and liberating Germany from the Nazis. You can see his grave when you visit Luxembourg’s American Cemetery. Check out the Luxembourg National Museum of Military History in Diekirch for even more World War II history.
Belgium’s Ardennes holds the Mardasson Memorial, a star-shaped tribute to the soldiers who were injured or died in the Battle of the Bulge, the bloodiest battle for Americans in World War II. All 50 states are inscribed on the walls as well as 10 passages commemorating the battle. If you’ve seen the show, “Band of Brothers,” you’ll be interested to see the fox holes used by the Easy Company.
See Reims, the city where the Second World War ended. German General Alfred Jodl signed papers ending the war in both the East and the West on May 7, 1945. With the Soviet Union and Allied Forces coming at the Nazis from both sides, there was no other option. General Jodl was tried, convicted, and subsequently hanged during the Nuremberg Trials, but later found not guilty in 1953.
Reims is famous for more than just World War II—all French royalty have held their coronations at the Reims Cathedral since the 9th century.
Caen, in northern France, is the site of a famous bridge that played an important role in stopping the Germans. The British captured Pegasus Bridge, keeping the Germans from a counter-attack after the Normandy invasion. See the bridge and think of our British friends.
In the spirit of friendship, head on to the Caen Peace and Memorial Museum, which recognizes all who favor peace and continue to fight for it.
If you’ve ever watched the opening of Saving Private Ryan, you know the American troops' arrival on the beaches at Normandy was a gruesome day. Visit the beaches of D-Day: Omaha, Utah, Gold, Juno, and Sword.
The bloody battles fought on these beaches opened up the possibility of an Allied victory. Walking on the same sand upon which the combat took place is humbling and solemn, but it helps keep alive the memory of those who died for their fellow citizens.
Pointe du Hoc, a German fortification, is also nearby. See where the Germans set up their fortification and how the Allies captured it.
The Netherlands’ position next to Germany made it a great location for war efforts for both sides. The Allies’ Operation Market Garden’s air and ground strikes set out to liberate the city of Arnhem. However, the ground troops never made it to the bridge, coining the battle “a bridge too far”. The bridge and other sites of this failed operation are still around today.
Visit the Waal bridge in Nijmegen, a city liberated by American troops during the war. This is the site of the crossing by American paratroopers which was decisive in taking control of this strategic asset.
Close to the end of the war, Americans captured Ludendorff Bridge, the last standing bridge on the Rhine River. That was March 7, 1945, exactly two months before the end of World War II.
These days, you can enjoy a riverboat ride past enchanting castles, idyllic vineyards, and charming villages. Taste the distinctive Rhine wines and end your evening with a festive dinner before your return home. Thanks to the heroics of so many people many decades ago, Germany is a different country today.
We know that a tour like this isn’t for the faint-hearted. It is, however, important to remind ourselves of the freedom we fought for in the war. If you’d like to experience these important places for yourself, get in touch to sign up for our World War II Memorial tour today.
Who says the only capital cities to visit in Europe are London, Paris, and Rome? Travel off the “beaten path” and see the capitals of Central Europe for a deep-dive into the continent’s history and culture.
These more obscure cities of the Old Continent have seen the rise of many famous figures as well as important historical events. You’ll love learning all about the unique cultures and peoples, who make Central Europe a thriving region.
Here’s a look at five capital cities and their surrounding towns that are must-sees in Central Europe:
Germany’s capital city, Berlin, is most known for its World War II history and the Berlin Wall. But since Ronald Reagan famously told “Mr. Gorbachev” to “tear down this wall,” Berlin has become a buzzing metropolis waiting to be explored.
Sightseeing highlights of Berlin include the grand Reichstag Building, magnificent Brandenburg Gate, and the site of Checkpoint Charlie, the best known Berlin Wall crossing point. Definitely stop by Kurfürstendamm Avenue, affectionately called Ku’damm, for a look at the bombed tower of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, a reminder of World War II.
During your tour of the city, be sure to stop in one of the world-class restaurants for fantastic food and beverages. You can’t miss out on trying traditional German fare, like schnitzel, bratwurst, and beer.
Outside of Berlin lie towns known for their religious history. Ever heard of Martin Luther, the religious reformer? Of course you have. He nailed the 95 Theses to a chapel door in Wittenberg, which isn’t too far from Berlin. Eisenach’s Wartburg Castle was Luther’s hiding place after becoming a wanted man by the Catholic Church.
Eisenach is also the birthplace of Johann Sebastian Bach, and to continue with the music theme, visit Leipzig, the birthplace of Richard Wagner and last home to Bach. There, you can visit the grave of the “Toccata and Fugue” composer.
Krakow is probably one of those cities you’ve heard of, but don’t really know much about. And that’s okay! There’s no time like the present to discover Poland’s gem.
Many centuries ago, Krakow was actually a major trade centre, but after the capital was moved to Warsaw, the city deteriorated. Poland lost its control of Krakow for over a century—it remained under Austria’s rule from 1795 to 1918.
Krakow did not escape World War II. The city was under Nazi control for many years, and over 55,000 Jews were taken from the city to Auschwitz, the horrific concentration camp. After the War, Poland once again gained Krakow. The city became an industrial mecca and helped bolster the country’s economy after the fall of communism in Poland.
These days, Krakow is a vibrant city full of art, architecture, and science. If architecture is your thing, be sure to head to the Old Town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Get a taste of Polish culture with a visit to salt mines just outside of Krakow, followed by a delicious dinner. Art enthusiasts should head to the National Museum for a look at famous paintings, sculptures, and more.
Budapest, known as “the Queen of the Danube,” is actually split into two parts across the River. Buda is on the west bank, and Pest is on the east bank. The sections are connected by many bridges across the Danube, creating Budapest. And between the two of them, there is so much to see and do.
In Buda, have your camera at the ready while visiting Castle Hill. The Old Town is covered with beautiful buildings and the Royal Palace is a stunning sight. Fisherman’s Bastion is arguably the most photographed spot in Buda. Its seven spectacular spires tower over the side of the Danube.
Pest, the larger section of the city, holds much of the modern-day culture. Here, the Hungarian Parliament resides. Music is a huge part of the capital’s make-up. Swing by the Vigadó (romantic concert hall) for ornate architecture and a possible performance. Pest is also home to the National Theatre, Neo-Renaissance State Opera House, and Franz Liszt Academy of Music. And for even more examples of architecture, stop by Gresham Palace for a fine example of the Art Nouveau style.
Nothing compares to a cruise down the Danube for breathtaking views of the city. With Buda on one side and Pest on the other, is there really a better way to take in Hungary’s capital?
Austria may be famous in the United States for The Sound of Music, but while visiting Vienna, you’ll gain a new appreciation for the country and its capital.
Certainly the “can’t miss” site in Vienna is St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The massive house of worship is a gorgeous and grand spectacle in the city center. Another breathtaking building is the Vienna Opera House.
Just outside of Vienna is Schonbrunn Palace. Think of it as Vienna’s version of Versaille. It was originally constructed as a hunting lodge, and then become a Habsburg summer residence. Wouldn’t that be the life?
Looking for something to do? Head to Museumsquartier for your pick of different museums. There is something for everyone here, including art museums, children’s museums, and a natural history museum.
The best way to ensure you see all you desire in Vienna (or anywhere abroad for that matter) is by booking your tour well in advance. A little planning ahead can take your trip from great to fantastic.
The final capital of Central Europe to see is Prague, the Czech Republic’s pride on the Vltava River. Despite destruction occurring all around it in World War II, Prague mostly remained intact, which adds to the city’s popularity as a travel destination in the 21st Century.
Begin your tour of Prague with Staromestské námesti, the most photographed square in the whole capital. Head next to the Old Town Hall and Church of St. Nicholas for traditional Czech architecture.
The remarkable Charles Bridge takes you across the Vltava River to Malá Strana and the Prague Castle. Visiting these historic sights transport you from reality into a fairytale, if only for a minute or two.
Don’t miss out on your opportunity to see the exceptional capitals of Central Europe, get in touch to start planning the adventure of a lifetime today.
Ever wish you could go backpacking through Europe without the backpacking part?
It’s possible to see the most magnificent places throughout the Old Continent with transportation and lodgings provided—all you have to do is go!
Here is the ideal itinerary for 22 days in Europe to see the ultimate sights:
The moment you’ve been waiting for months and months has finally arrived! Your international flight to Europe is about to touch down in Holland.
Your first full day in Europe begins with a drive through the Dutch Lowlands. Because the majority of the Dutch countryside is at or below sea level, you will see many dikes, canals, and windmills throughout the green heart of Holland.
You’re going to love the Dutch “gezelligheid,” a kind, convivial, comfortable feeling—it’s everything you imagined Holland would be.
It’s all about the canals, cafes, and ceramics during your day-trip to Delft! As you walk through the picturesque streets, medieval architecture is everywhere you look. Corner cafes offering Dutch pancakes lure you in with their sweet smells.
Be sure to stop and admire the charming canals that wind their way through the city.
In any store, you’re all but sure to find the famous blue Delftware pottery. Pick some up for your dining room at home to remind you of this charming city.
Head to Antwerp, Belgium today. For lunch, sample Belgian waffles at one of the colorful cafes while admiring the guild houses surrounding the main square. If you’re a chocolate fan, you won’t be able to resist the endless selection in the chocolate shops.
Heading toward Germany, the stop at Margraten American Military Cemetery is an emotional one. The graves of over 8,000 American servicemen from World War II are here. Pay your respects to the men who fought for liberty and justice for all.
Willkommen in Deutschland! Welcome to Germany! Glide down the Rhine River past quaint villages, medieval fortresses, and hillside vineyards known for their distinctive wines.
The village of Heidelberg and its castle exude the spirit of Germany. Explore the Old Town and imagine yourself in the days of knights and squires.
Nothing compares to the romantic hamlet of Rothenberg. This medieval village is straight out of a storybook.
Walk the cobblestone streets, hear the sounds of the bell tower, and stop in the many shops, including Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Weihnachtsdorf where it’s Christmas year-round.
The Medieval Criminal Museum is a must. Learn about the different devices of torture and tools of punishment from more draconian times—then lighten up as you travel the Romantic Road (one of the Top 10 Road Trips in Europe!).
Even if you aren’t in Germany at the end of September (when Oktoberfest is celebrated), you can still enjoy the experience of drinking German beer and eating schnitzel to your heart’s content.
The Hofbräuhaus is one of a kind beer hall where the celebration of Oktoberfest goes on all year long. Be sure to try the traditional foods and hoppy beers during your visit.
Austria’s Innsbruck is one of those European cities you will fall in love with. The Imperial City (as it’s known) has hosted the Winter Olympics twice, has incredible mountain views, and is an architectural beauty thanks to Maximilian I, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1493 to 1519.
Be sure to check out the Bavarian Palace or Tyrolean Show and Dinner to get immersed in Innsbruck’s culture.
Italy lies on the other side of the Alps, a country full of history, culture, and excellent food and wine.
To the north is Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake. Its sheltered location in the Dolomites gives the area a subtropical climate rich in vegetation, including oleander bushes, olive groves, fruit trees, and grapevines.
Stroll along the lakefront, visit the shops, and grab a snack at a cafe. Gelato (Italian ice cream) is a wonderful way to cool off on a warm summer’s day.
Italy’s city on the water has so much more to offer than just gondola rides—but you should definitely take one anyway. Then stroll around St. Mark’s Square, marvel at St. Mark’s Basilica and the Clock Tower, and take plenty of pictures of the amazing Venetian architecture.
For a special treat, let us arrange a private dinner with wine and dessert to end your adventure in the City of Love.
While today is primarily a “travel day,” no time is wasted as you wander through the hillside of Italy. Vineyards and olive groves sprawl across the tranquil landscape. Your journey takes you on the Autostrada del Sol (Highway of the Sun).
Ah, Roma. This is where it all began—a city full of the history of Western world. Visit the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and a few of the major temples. Conjure your inner Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck with a trip to the Trevi Fountain.
Then take a tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. You can’t miss the Michelangelo masterpiece, The Creation of Adam.
It’s a free day in one of the most delicious cities in the world.
Visit the markets, sip espresso at a cafe, grab a slice of pizza from a street vendor, and try the gelato. Do a little shopping, walk the Spanish Steps, make the most of your day.
True story: The Leaning Tower of Pisa started to shift when the builders hit the third story—they built on soil too soft to support it! Be sure to grab a picture to show your friends back home.
Then it’s on to Florence in the heart of Tuscany. Enjoy a guided walking tour of the various piazzas (town squares) complete with countless sculptures and architectural masterpieces. Shopping is fantastic in Florence—markets full of leather goods and jewelry at Ponte Vecchio Bridge never disappoint.
Can you believe there are palm trees just across the Swiss border? At Lake Lugano, you can take a picture with leafy palm trees and snow-capped mountains in the background. The town of Lugano is known for its international banking and tourist industry. The affluent vacation here during their summer holiday.
Architecturally, the town is Italian but within Swiss borders. You’ll enjoy walking through the “Rio de Janeiro of the Old Continent” on your first day in Switzerland.
Surrounding Lucerne and its lake of the same name are many mountains, including the mighty Rigi, Stanserhorn, and Pilatus. But if the breathtaking views aren’t enough to make Lucerne a must on your European “bucket list,” perhaps the shopping and Swiss chocolates will.
Swiss lace, watches, and wood-carved music boxes are all superb souvenirs to take home to loved ones (or keep for yourself!). Don’t forget to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and admire the gorgeous mountains one last time.
For your first day in France, spend some time in Beaune, a well-preserved medieval town in the French countryside. Burgundy is famous for its wines, which you can sample during an independent dinner.
Visit the Hospices Museum. Once a hospital during the 15th Century, these buildings now house items used in the hospital during the Middle Ages as well as a collection of furniture, paintings, pottery, and tapestries.
You’ll never forget your first look at Paris — the Eiffel Tower, L’Arc de Triomphe, the wide, tree-lined Champs Elysees, and the incredible masterpieces at the Louvre.
It’s the ultimate destination for history buffs, art aficionados, eager epicures, and incurable romantics. Dig in!
One of the best ways to get up close and personal with Paris is a scenic Seine River Cruise.
You’ll see a whole new side of the city as you glide along the water. The Cathedral of Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower are especially impressive from your perch on the boat.
Keep your camera handy!
The Channel Tunnel takes you from Paris to London, your last city on the tour — and what an incredible city it is!
Hit all the famous London landmarks — Big Ben, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square. London is the ultimate mix of old and new.
Today is your day to explore London however you like.
Maybe you’re into shopping—Harrods calling! Or perhaps the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London are at the top of your bucket list. Piccadilly Square has a “Times Square” feel to it if you’re ready for a little nightlife on your last evening in Europe.
After a roaring trip through Europe, it’s time to head home. But don’t be sad—it’s been an amazing three weeks and you have hundreds of pictures to prove it.
Can you see yourself experiencing the excitement of Europe? Get in touch today to start planning the trip of a lifetime.