Monumental European attractions — a Guide to

Original article written for momondo, available here

From Bucharest’s epic Palace of Parliament to Barcelona’s Hospital de Sant Pau and Stockholm’s Vaxholm Fortress, here are 14 overlooked European attractions

Molecule Man, Berlin, Germany

Berlin's Molecule Man in the River Spree.
Berlin’s Molecule Man in the River Spree. Photo by Daniel Lonn on Unsplash

This aluminium trio has been delighting Berliners since 1997, following several brotherly sculptures in the US. Designed by American artist Jonathan Borofsky, the three holy men symbolise the molecular structure of humankind; made up mostly of water and air, coming together to create our unified existence.Find a flight to Berlin

Rocamadour, Lot, France

Admire the drop into the valley below from the iconic rock village of Rocamadour
Admire the drop into the valley below from the iconic rock village of Rocamadour. Photo by Cab on Unsplash

A veritable European treasure, Rocamadour is every bit as enchanting as it sounds. Built into a limestone cliff face, this small village in the south of France is revered for its many religious sites, trademark goat cheese and impeccable medieval architecture. Access it through the sole gateway into the village, the Figuier gate.Find a flight to nearby Brive La Gaillard

Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse, Rubjerg, Denmark

Rubjerg Knude, on Denmark's West Coast, affords great views of the North sea on sunny days like these
Rubjerg Knude, on Denmark’s West Coast, affords great views of the North sea on sunny days like these. Photo: Allan Kortbaek

Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse stands 60 metres above sea level on Denmark’s western shoreline, overlooking the North Sea. A relic from 1899, the lighthouse is engaged in an eternal battle with coastal erosion, which eats away at up to 1,5 metres of shoreline annually. In fact, it is widely believed that the entire structure will have sunk into the sea within the next 10 – 15 years. For now, though, take advantage of the recently re-opened tower and ascend it for a riveting view. Find a flight to nearby Aalborg

The Jacobite Steam Train, Fort William, Scotland

Sweep across the Scottish countryside in The Jacobite Steam Train
Sweep across the Scottish countryside in The Jacobite Steam Train. Photo by Corry on Unsplash

Harry Potter fans may recognise this steam stalwart from its many appearances as The Hogwarts Express in the various films. Traversing some of Scotland’s most alluring scenery, you will travel along the shores of Loch Eli and further on to Mallaig on your journey. Keep your eyes open for the passage over the Glenfinnan viaduct — an unforgettable moment of magic.

The Buzludzha Monument, Balkan Mountains, Bulgaria

You would be forgiven for thinking that a UFO landed here. The Buzludzha Monument is a bizarre relic of the Communist era
You would be forgiven for thinking that a UFO landed here. The Buzludzha Monument is a bizarre relic of the Communist era. Photo by Stefan Spassov on Unsplash

This derelict European landmark has to be seen to be believed. Erected at the peak of the Balkan Mountains in 1981, it stands at the final battleground between Bulgarian rebels and the Ottoman Empire in 1868, which became the location for the birth of the first social democratic party in the Balkans some 23 years later.

Ever since the Communist reign came to a close in 1989, the once thriving former headquarters has turned into an important, but shabbily kept monument of times past. Officially, the front doors are bolted shut, but if you follow the ‘FORGET YOUR PAST’ graffiti emblazoned on the dome’s side, you may just be able to find a small, unofficial portal into this crumbling gem.

Find a flight to nearby Sofia

The Atomium, Brussels, Belgium

The Atomium stands tall high above Park Europe and the city of Brussels beyond it
The Atomium stands tall high above Park Europe and the city of Brussels beyond it. Photo by fotografierende on Unsplash

Brussels is often associated with its Manneken Pis statue, but this shimmering treasure also warrants a visit ,if you find yourself in the EU capital. Originally devised for the Expo 58 by engineer André Waterkeyn, this intricate, shiny structure closely resembles a unit cell of an iron crystal, blown up into nine, apartment-sized spheres connected by tubes.

After the spheres were restored in 2004, they were opened up for public eyes. 8 of the spheres are used for study trips and private events, while the top orb hosts Brussels’ most exclusive restaurant. You will find The Atomium in the north of Brussels, overlooking the miniature park, Mini Europe.Find a flight to Brussels

Villa D’Este, Tivoli, Italy

A hallmark of The Renaissance, Villa d'Este is an oasis of green and quietude in the town of Tivoli, Italy
A hallmark of The Renaissance, Villa d’Este is an oasis of green and quietude in the town of Tivoli, Italy. Photo by Glen McCallum on Unsplash

When in the hilltop town of Tivoli, near Lazio, be sure to visit the Renaissance Villa d’Este — an imposing 16th-century villa and its surrounding parks. The landscaping here is a perennial ballad between the elements of stone and water, relics of the Roman world and all its ingenuity.

Find a flight to nearby Rome

Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon's Padrão dos Descobrimentos and the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge in the backdrop
Lisbon’s Padrão dos Descobrimentos and the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge in the backdrop. Photo by Tania Mousinho on Unsplash

Portugal’s heyday as a 14th- century superpower is celebrated by this mighty concrete structure that rises 52 metres above the shoreline of the River Tagus. The detailed figures on each side of it depict the sojourns of bygone explorers who ventured out in the world from what used to be the old harbour of Belem.

Find a flight to Lisbon

The Palace of Parliament, Bucharest, Romania

The Palace of Parliament - a giant of an administrative building, replete with countless chambers and hidden tunnels
The Palace of Parliament – a giant of an administrative building, replete with countless chambers and hidden tunnels. Photo by Ondrej Bocek on Unsplash

The world’s second largest administrative building (after The Pentagon) was once the jewel in the crown in Nicolae Ceausescu’s communist dictatorship. Despite its completion being thwarted by the revolution of 1989, the complex still stands tall today – all twelve floors of it (as well as the eight below the surface).

Find a flight to Bucharest

Delphi Ruins, Delphi, Greece

Even today there is still something mystical and inexplicable about the sanctuary of Delphi, located on Mount Parnassus
Even today there is still something mystical and inexplicable about the sanctuary of Delphi, located on Mount Parnassus.
Photo by Victor Malyushev on Unsplash

Delphi —  the ancient sanctuary on the south side of Mount Parnassus that was once the navel of Greece’s political decision-making. The revered Oracle of Delphi, once reigned supreme here. It is said that this oracle, (the Pythia) was a link between mankind and the spiritual world, the former of whom she spoke to in riddles, while belching hallucinogenic fumes that entranced and enlightened.

Today’s ruins reverberate with powerful echoes of Delphi at its pinnacle, standing robust against a backdrop of green. It is little wonder that the area is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Find a flight to nearby Athens

Franz Kafka’s Head, Prague, Czech Republic

Czech author Franz Kafka may be long gone but his legacy continues to shine on, thanks in part to this statue in Prague
Czech author Franz Kafka may be long gone but his legacy continues to shine on, thanks in part to this statue in Prague. Photo by Jonny McKenna on Unsplash

Franz Kafka was one of Prague’s literary greats. A troubled soul who was tormented by depression and self-doubt for most of his adult life, Kafka was known as being a particularly mercurial character.

These traits are reflected in a multi-layered mirror structure in the form of a head, designed by the artist David Černý. Each of the 42 layers rotates individually, with the help of a gear system inspired by Prague’s famous astronomical clock, adding further dynamism to this shimmering gem

.Find a flight to Prague

Popeye Village, Mellieħa, Malta

Popeye Village in Mellieħa - a colourful former movie set
Popeye Village in Mellieħa – a colourful former movie set. Photo by Magdalena Smolnicka on Unsplash

After being used in Robert Altman’s film Popeye from 1980 (starring Robin Williams) this elaborately built set, whose constructions include a 76-metre breakwater that was built around Anchor’s Bay, was scheduled to be demolished.

But with some clever negotiation by the local authorities the village was saved and transformed into a theme park ‘for the young and young at heart.’ Take advantage of Mellieħa’s sandy beaches and striking nature while you’re in the north of the island.

Find a flight to Malta

Bled Island and Castle, Bled, Slovenia

The emerald waters of Lake Bled are a magical experience
The emerald waters of Lake Bled are a magical experience. Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

The entire region of Bled, at the northern tip of Slovenia, is, in itself, bewilderingly enchanting.

At the heart of it, you’ll find Lake Bled — a shimmering body of water nestled between mountains and thick woodland. Be sure to drop by Bled Castle — a towering construction built on a precipice on the lake shore and, if you can, row out to Bled Island in the middle of the lake. A stunning Gothic church awaits you here – ring its bells for good luck.

Find a flight to nearby Ljubljana

One thought on “Monumental European attractions — a Guide to

  1. Pingback: Destinations on this site | Kortbæk_Travels

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