Europe is home to a fascinating array of museums, devoted to every subject imaginable. From Vikings in the north, broken relationships in Croatia to vampires in Brasov. Here is the lowdown on Europes original and unusual museums.
European Heritage Sites include archives, monuments, archeological sites, and places of seminal cultural or political value, from the classic age to the present. Since the label’s inception in 2013, thirty-eight sites have been designated, bringing passages in Europe’s history to the foreground to honor, celebrate, and remember who built Europe, how, and why. They are lessons from the past to guide the future of Europe.
Krapina Neanderthal Site, Croatia
Thanks to eight meters of river sediment preserving an ancient cave, we have a precious legacy of over 900 human and animal bones from the Pleistocene period, 125,000 years ago. The remains of over eighty human beings, as well as cave bears, wolves and other animals, are presented in a manmade replica of the original cave, which was originally excavated in 1899. Interactive exhibits reveal what is known about the prehistoric ancestors of all modern Europeans and the evolution of humankind.
The Heart of Ancient Athens, Greece
Western philosophy, democracy, theatre and music were conceived and developed at the collection of archeological sites that grace the center of Athens. Constructed and used over a period spanning 3,000 years, the designated ruins are of extraordinary architectural and cultural significance. The collection of almost one hundred sites include the Acropolis hill, the Ancient Agora, Hadrian’s library, the Pynx hill, and the Kerameikos cemetery. But think of the people of the time who bequeathed so much to us: Pericles, Phidias, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Hippocrates, Herodotus, Thucydides…and the list goes on.
Archaeological Park Carnuntum, Austria
At Carnuntum you can appreciate much that modern Europe has inherited from the Roman civilization, such as theatre and indoor plumbing! A city of 50,000 inhabitants two millennia ago, it was established on the Danube at the convergence of several ancient trade routes and became the provincial capital of Pannonia. Less than one percent of the site has been excavated, yet you can visit three reconstructed, fully functional buildings, and enjoy theater in the ancient amphitheater during Canuntum’s annual festival.
Leipzig’s Musical Heritage Sites, Germany
Visit the haunts of some of Europe’s most revered composers in Leipzig, where music has been an integral part of its culture for over 800 m 47yrs. Trace the evolution of significant musical periods thanks to the genius of formative composers including Bach, Mendelssohn, Clara and Robert Schumann, Wagner and Grieg Music. The sites on the Musical Heritage Trail include churches, educational institutions, such as Germany’s oldest music conservatory, archives, former homes of musicians, and concert halls.
Abbey of Cluny, France
A prince of Charlemagne’s court exhorted a group of Benedictine monks to be an example of order and right living to other communities, and gave them land at Cluny to do so. The monks succeeded, and the Abbey at Cluny became the spiritual and administrative center of one of the largest monastic networks in European history. As such, it was a hub for learning, art, new ideas and scientific knowledge, and facilitated the sharing of these among its visitors and across borders.
Olomouc Premyslid Castle and Archdiocesan Museum, Czech Republic
The Archdiocesan Museum in the city of Olomouc is the first museum in the Czech Republic to focus on spiritual culture. It is housed in part of a castle from the Premsylid dynasty, and is the site of many important events, including a royal murder in 1306. The museum’s collection includes fine examples of Baroque and Rococo works, a testament to the artistic patronage of Moravian archbishops. The Oloumoc Bishopric collection is second only to the National Gallery in Prague.
Archive of the Crown of Aragon, Barcelona, Spain
The Archive of the Crown of Aragon is a mindboggling collection of medieval books and documents initially established in 1318 by order of James II. This repository chronicles the role that the Crown of Aragon played in the Mediterranean region with documentation pertaining to practically all of Europe and even realms and Emirates beyond. The Archives are now housed in a modern building designed to preserve this extraordinary collection while making it freely available to the public. A digitalization project is underway to expand access even further.
Great Guild Hall, Tallinn, Estonia
The Great Guild of Hanseatic merchants was a powerful trade organization with a vast network across northern Europe in medieval times, and it facilitated both commercial and cultural exchange. The Great Hall that the Guild commissioned in Tallinn, a prime example of Hanseatic architecture, was built in 1410. It has been a scene of international exchange ever since. Nowadays, it houses a modern museum with interactive exhibits that showcase the many links between Estonia and the rest of Europe.
Sagres Promontory, Portugal
At the southwestern-most tip of Portugal is the Sagres Promontory, one of the main launching points for expeditions especially during the Age of Discovery in the 15th century; you can consider that this is where European globalization began. Prince Henry the navigator made it his headquarters for maritime projects that exported European civilization towards Africa, the Atlantic, and across the Mediterranean. Visit the Sagres Promontory to explore archeological remains and monuments and imagine the curiosity and courage of these long-ago explorers and the royalty who backed them.
General Library of the University of Coimbra, Portugal
The groundbreaking General Library of the University of Coimbra has been “public” since it was established in the early 16th century. Its collection includes a very rare 16th century Hebrew bible that escaped destruction during the Inquisition; at no time did it ever allow censorship; and it was one of the first libraries to have subject catalogues. The 18th century Joanina Library is as beautiful as it was innovative at its inception. The General Library supports exchange between local, national and pan-European students, researchers–and of course, general visitors!
The Imperial Palace, Vienna, Austria
The family that ruled enormous areas of Europe for seven centuries would clearly require a massive domicile in the capital city, and that is what the Imperial Palace was for the Hapsburg Dynasty starting in the 16th century. Such a vast, multi-ethnic empire encouraged cultural exchange and art collecting. Thus, the immense complex of stately buildings and gardens housed not only the family and government, but fabulous art and artifacts as well. Still the seat of the Austrian Federal President, the Imperial Palace comprises several museums the National Library, and other cultural institutions.
Union of Lublin, Poland
The Union of Lublin was an early forerunner of the European Union: it joined the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as one entity, its citizens of various ethnic and religious backgrounds coexisting peacefully. The Union remained in some form until the 18th century. Three monuments commemorate it: The Holy Trinity Chapel, remarkable for its Gothic architecture and blend of Roman Catholic and Orthodox decoration; the church where a mass celebrating the treaty signing was held; and a memorial obelisk in Lithuania Square.
Münster and Osnabrück – Sites of the Peace of Westphalia, Germany
Known as the Peace of Westphalia, the treaties that ended the political and religious conflict known as the Thirty Years’ War (AD 1618-1648) and the Dutch War of Independence against Spain were signed in Münster and Osnabrück. This was a seminal event in the development of the state and of international law. The principles developed then are still in effect and decisively shaped the order of Europe today. Visit the chambers where this peace began and where contemporary organizations continue to work for cross-border cooperation.
The May 3, 1791 Constitution, Warsaw, Poland
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, a descendent of the Union of Lublin, adopted the Constitution of May 3rd, 1791 to ensure more freedom and political equality for its citizens and to introduce a constitutional monarchy. Significantly, it provided for a peaceful transformation of the government and is considered to be one of the first constitutions of its type in Europe. The building where it was adopted is now an archive and holds original printed versions of the 1791 Constitution.
Historic Ensemble of the University of Tartu, Estonia
“A university in the city, a university in the park” was the guiding motto for the Tartu University campus designed in the early 19th century. It embodies the ideas of the Age of Enlightenment, linking science and learning and reflecting European traditions in education. Originally established in 1632 by the Swedish King Gustav II Adolf, it changed hands between many political powers over time: it celebrates a Swedish, a Russian, and an Estonian birthday! Always a beacon of progressive ideas, it prepares students for the future in a historic environment.
Hambach Castle, Germany
Medieval Hambach Castle became especially important on May 27th, 1832, when about 30,000 people from Germany, France and Poland convened there to celebrate the end of a period of political repression. Participants spoke out for fundamental rights, political freedoms and equality, tolerance and democracy in Germany and Europe, making the castle a symbol of the struggle for civil liberties. This was the beginning not only of the Hambach Festival, but also of the modern German flag. Today the castle buildings are in constant use for events, concerts, and visits from tourists to Neustadt.
Dohány Street Synagogue Complex, Budapest, Hungary
The Dohány Street Synagogue, built in the 1850’s, is the largest in Europe and in the world. The Spanish-trained architect melded Moorish and Eastern European esthetics in the design. The complex includes the Jewish Museum and Jewish Archives of Hungary, the Heroes’ Temple, in memory of Jewish Hungarian soldiers lost in WWI, and unusually, a cemetery garden, for the victims of the Budapest Ghetto. The complex adjoins the Wallenberg Memorial Park, which has memorials to the Jewish and non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The complex symbolizes integration and remembrance.
Fort Cadine, Trento, Italy
Fort Cadine straddles the road to Trento with its iconic archway, one of 80 such defensive fortifications that previously protected major trade routes between Central Europe and the Mediterranean basin. These were built by the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the late 19th century in its border area with the Kingdom of Italy. Fort Cadine now represents all the Trentino fortifications, to remind us of historical divisions, military conflicts and mutable borders and provide a context to better appreciate the value of open borders and free circulation.
Charter of Law of Abolition of the Death Penalty, Lisbon, Portugal
The original Charter of Law of Abolition of the Death Penalty, signed by King D. Luis in 1867, is painstakingly preserved at the National Archives of Torre do Tombo in Lisbon. This is one of the first examples of the permanent suspension of the death penalty being codified in a national legal system. Portugal is considered a pioneer in safeguarding human rights because of this landmark legislation. The document is available online and will eventually be translated into all the European languages.
Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music, Budapest, Hungary
Liszt Ferenc (Franz Liszt) founded his eponymous Academy of Music in 1875 and it is as vibrant today as ever. The Academy comprises an international university of musical arts and a concert center which hosts well over 500 concerts per year, the Liszt Ferenc Memorial Museum and Research Centre, the Kodály Institute and the Kodály Museum. It is housed in 1907 building considered to be a masterpiece of the Hungarian Secession. The Academy is a forward-focused amalgamation of tradition and innovation.
Mundaneum, Mons, Belgium
Henri La Fontaine and Paul Otlet shared a vision to facilitate peace through dialogue and knowledge sharing, which required access to ideas. The Mundaneum is a landmark in the intellectual and social fabric of Europe, as it required international cooperation to pursue its purpose of amassing all the information in the world, in any format (all paper media at the time) and classifying it according to their Universal Decimal Classification system. The Mundaneum is a foundations of information science and is considered a precursor of today’s internet search engines.
Peace Palace, The Hague, the Netherlands
Andrew Carnegie founded the Peace Palace, opened in 1913, a living monument to peace through law. The Hague has been associated with the peace process since it hosted the First World Peace Conference in 1899. Since then it has hosted international peace conferences and has become the seat of the International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and the Hague Academy of International Law, earning it recognition as the seat of international law.
Javorca Memorial Church and its cultural landscape, Tolmin, Slovenia
Javorca Memorial Church was built in the Julian Alps by soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian army involved in the Isonzo Front in the middle of WWI to honor their fallen. The architect, a soldier, designed it in the Art Nouveau style, with a colorfully painted interior. It is a unique place of contemplation to remember fallen soldiers regardless of nationality or culture. The church and its cultural landscape continue to symbolize the need for reconciliation and the unifying power of collaborative creation and construction.
Residencia de Estudiantes, Madrid, Spain
The Residencia de Estudiantes was established in 1910 and modeled on Oxford and Cambridge to provide a place of learning as much as cross-disciplinary exchange. A pantheon of intellectual and artistic luminaries of the 20th century spent time here. Although it was destroyed during the Civil War, it has been rebuilt and modernized, serving as a quiet residential base for study, multi-cultural and interdisciplinary exchange, debate, and dialogue. The Residencia de Estudiantes is renowned throughout Europe for encouraging communication and understanding among generations, cultures, and disciplines.
World War I Eastern Front Cemetery No. 123, Łużna – Pustki, Poland
Wartime cemetery No 123 is a sober monument to soldiers lost on the Eastern Front in May of 1915 from the Austro-Hungarian, German, and Russian armies. The battle on this hill, also known as the Verdun of the East, was one of the largest of WWI. Soldiers were laid to rest here regardless of their military, ethnic or religious affiliation. World War I Eastern Front Cemetery No 123 honors these men and is a stark reminder of the futility of war as a way to solve political problems.
Kaunas of 1919-1940, Lithuania
Kaunas was the “temporary capital’ of Lithuania during the interwar period, when the government relocated there from Vilnius, which was occupied. The city population expanded by more than 8.5 times. As such, the city developed into a vibrant, dynamic, modern urban setting that invigorated the country during its independence and nurtured Lithuanian national identity. Many Lithuanians who had studied abroad revitalized the city with new knowledge, ideas and outlooks on their return. The architecture of the period is notable for its synthesis of traditional Lithuanian motifs with interwar modernism.
Camp Westerbork, the Netherlands
Camp Westerbork has a difficult past. Originally for Jews escaping persecution in other European countries, in 1942 it became a transit camp to Nazi extermination and concentration camps. After the war, suspected Nazi collaborators were imprisoned here. The military used it briefly and finally, it sheltered people repatriating or immigrating from former Dutch colonies. The Camp Westerbork memorial site and museum receive thousands of school children and adult visitors annually who learn about crucial topics in Europe’s history: occupation, persecution, migration, decolonization and multiculturalism.
Former Natzweiler concentration camp and its satellite camps, France – Germany
The former Natzweiler Nazi concentration camp and its satellites are located on both banks of the Rhine, which then belonged to the Third Reich and are now in France and Germany. These camps were used primarily for political prisoners and Resistance fighters who provided a critical labor force for the German war machine, although they were treated as entirely expendable non-entities. Establishing the modern-day memorial site and museum required cooperation between countries with very different historical perspectives that now share a vision of teaching and remembrance.
Franja Partisan Hospital, Slovenia
The Franja Hospital, one of many secret WWII hospitals run by Slovenian partisans, treated over 550 wounded people from both the Allied and Axis powers. The ill and wounded were brought by stretcher, at night, on a creek-side path at the bottom of the gorge where the hospital is located. Staffed and supported by doctors from many countries and local volunteers, it was never discovered. One aspect of the broadly organized Slovenian Partisan resistance movement against fascism and Nazism, today it is a museum promoting solidarity, democratic values and human rights.
Sighet Memorial, Romania
“… memory on its own can be a kind of justice” is part of the motto of the Sighet Memorial, which is housed in a former Stalinist prison. The building’s history is harsh: it was a prison for schoolchildren, students and peasants from the resistance, political opponents, journalists and clergymen, and common criminals. Today it memorializes the victims of communist regimes and educates about the development of and repression by communist regimes in Romania and elsewhere in Europe, including the resultant death and suffering both inside and outside the prison walls.
European District of Strasbourg, France
Europe as we know it today came into being in 1949 at the Council of Europe. Strasbourg means “city of many streets”, and the name couldn’t be more apt. The European District of Strasbourg contains the headquarters of home to the Council of Europe, its European Court of Human Rights and the European Parliament of the European Union. Here you can deepen your understanding of modern European concerns, its future, and its commitment to European integration, the defense of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.
Robert Schuman's House, Scy-Chazelles, France
Robert Schuman was pivotal in laying the foundations for the European Coal and Steel Community and for all of the European institutions to follow. His most famous speech, given on May 9th, 1950, is commemorated annually as Europe Day. A German born in Luxembourg who witnessed both World Wars, his ideal was always for European countries to be allies, not enemies. At the house he bought in 1926 and where he spent his brief retirement are exhibits about his personal interests and his unwavering belief in the European ideal.
Bois du Cazier, Marcinelle, Belgium
The Bois du Cazier coal mining site honors the miners lost in the disaster of 1956 in which 262 people of 12 different nationalities died. It is also a museum dedicated to the coal, iron and glass industry focused on 20th century working classes and immigration to Wallonia (the southern, French-speaking part of Belgium). The site recalls the European solidarity demonstrated in the aftermath of the 1956 disaster, which triggered the creation of a health and safety body by the European Coal and Steel Community.
Museo Casa Alcide De Gasperi, Pieve Tesino, Italy
Alcide de Gasperi was instrumental in creating modern Europe. The house where he was born, in a border region of northern Italy, is now a museum highlighting his contributions. After serving in three different parliaments, he was Foreign Affairs Minister and Italian Prime Minister from 1945 to 1953. He supported Schuman’s plans and followed him as leader of the European Coal and Steel Community. An inspiring force in creating the European Economic Community, he worked unceasingly to build peace and democracy.
The historic Gdańsk Shipyard, Poland
The historic Gdańsk Shipyard is where the Solidarity movement was born, from origins in the violently suppressed strikes of 1970. New strikes in 1980 resulted in the use of discussion and argument rather than force, culminating in the first independent trade union in the Eastern Bloc, NSZZ “Solidarność. These events triggered similar movements across Eastern Europe. The museum commemorates and popularizes the message of the Solidarity movement to inspire European initiatives with a universal dimension, and to share the achievements of the peaceful struggle for freedom, justice, democracy and human rights.
Village of Schengen, Schengen, Luxembourg
Schengen, on the banks of the Moselle River in Luxembourg, is where the border-dissolving Schengen Agreement was signed in 1984, on the Princess Marie-Astrid river boat. France and Germany thereby joined the Benelux in opening their common borders. Over the ensuing years, the Schengen Area has come to include 26 different European countries, enabling unrestricted movement for people with the correct passport or visa across these borders. You can visit locations in the village of Schengen that are associated with the Agreement, including the European Centre of Schengen and its museum.
Pan-European Picnic Memorial Park, Sopron, Hungary
The reunification of Europe began with the Pan-European Picnic peace demonstration held here on August 19th, 1989. Envisioned to strengthen friendship between Austria and Hungary, it included a brief border opening to symbolize openness. This literal open gate provided an escape to the West for nearly 600 East German citizens who had been informed of the opportunity. Many similar events followed and contributed to the destruction of the Iron Curtain. The Memorial Park stands for post-1989 borderless, unified Europe and is an important site to inform those too young to remember closed borders.
Maastricht Treaty, Netherlands
A major element unifying Europe is its common currency, the euro. The Maastricht Treaty, signed on February 7th, 1992, that marked the beginning of this economic transformation. The agreement initiated the economic and monetary union that led to the introduction of the Euro, and reinforced democratic representation. The Provincial building where the treaty was negotiated and signed is in the city of Maastricht, located at the confluence of the Dutch, German, and Belgian borders, and now has a visitor and exhibitions center.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that has been awarded as having cultural or environmental importance. Luckily, Europe has plenty of UNESCO sites to explore. From ancient castles to quaint seaside towns, you’ll find natural and cultural beauty everywhere you go. Consider this gallery your guide to some of the best UNESCO sites in Europe to discover on your next trip.
Admire the works of da Vinci, Rembrandt and Klimt firsthand at some of the finest classical art museums in the world.
How architecture and contrasts changed Europe’s cities.
Speck Alto Adige PGI, the unique smoked ham of Italy´s southern Alps, іs а dry-cured, lightly smoked ham produced іn South Tyrol, northern Italy. Parts оf іts production аre regulated by the European Union under the protected geographical indication (PGI) status.
Poish forests have an abundance of wilde game and it is no wonder that traditional Polish cuisine has been so rich in game for centuries.
Where children have fun ― and even learn something.
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Explore the Carpathian Garden!
“Ostropel” is a Romanian dish that can be found all around the country; each area having their own variations, additions, or omissions. Even the chicken is exchangeable, and the dish could easily be cooked with chicken livers, pork chunks, or even a vegetarian version with the meat replaced by potatoes or another solid vegetable.
Meatballs of various types are an integral part of Romanian cuisine and the word chiftea (pl. chiftele) (pronounced /kif-te-a/ – /kif-te-le/) is clearly an indication of their Turkish origin, the word being a corruption of the Turkish kofte and related to the Middle Eastern kafta. In the Moldavian region of Romania they are also commonly known as parjoale (/pur-joa-le/) although these seem to be a little larger in size than the standard Romanian chiftea. Due to the preference for pork in the Romanian diet, these meatballs are most commonly composed of pork, perhaps in combination with some beef. Lamb chiftele are quite rare in Romanian cuisine. These cauliflower croquettes have a moist, light interior and, if cooked right, a crispy coating. Cauliflower is more usually pickled in Romanian or the whole florets are battered and fried.
There’s nothing like enjoying a night at the opera in the very place where it was born. From Teatro alla Scala in Milan to London’s Covent Garden, Europe is home to many of the world’s finest opera houses. Don’t miss the chance to take your European vacation to new heights of action, drama and romance – all within the span of a few hours – with a trip to one of Europe’s famed opera houses