7 Must See Historical Sites in Europe
It’s hard to avoid visiting at least one historical site on your holiday to Europe. In fact, you are more likely to visit many, with thousands of ancient ruins, palaces, and monuments to choose from. From the ancient Newgrange tombs in Ireland and Diocletian’s Palace in Croatia, we’ve selected seven historical sites that you must see when exploring Europe.
1. Ancient city of Pompeii, Italy
Pompeii is a massive archaeological site in near Naples in Italy. Once a wealthy and sophisticated Roman city, Pompeii was buried under metres of ash and pumice after the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.
Pompeii remained mostly untouched until 1748, when a group of explorers looking for ancient artifacts arrived in the region and began to dig. They found that the ashes had acted as a marvellous preservative. Underneath all that dust, Pompeii was almost exactly as it had been almost 2,000 years before. Its buildings were intact. The skeletons of the inhabitants were right where they had fallen.
Today, the excavation of Pompeii has been going on for almost three centuries, travellers can explore the ruins and discover what life was like before the eruption.
Visit Pompeii with Albatross Tours on our 18 day Italian Grande tour.
2. Roman Temple of Evora, Portugal
The Roman Temple of Évora, also referred to as the Templo de Diana is an ancient temple in the Portuguese city of Évora. The temple is believed to have been constructed around the first century A.D., in honour of Augustus, who was venerated as a god during and after his rule.
The temple is part of the historical centre of the city, and is surrounded by religious buildings associated with the Inquisition in Portugal, including: the Sé Cathedral, the Palace of the Inquisitor, Palace of the Dukes of Cadaval, the Court of the Inquisition and, the Church and Lóios' Convent, as well as the Public Library and Museum of Évora.
Whilst in Evora be sure not to miss Evora’s weird and wonderful church, the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones). Dating back to the 17th century, the interior walls of the church are decorated with the bones and skulls of monks, all stacked neatly together.
Visit the Evora temple on our Magnifico Spain and Portugal tour.
3. Alhambra Palace, Spain
The Alhambra is an ancient palace, fortress and citadel located in Granada, Spain. The 8th century UNESCO heritage site was named for the reddish walls and towers that surrounded the citadel: al-qal’a al-hamra in Arabic means red fort or castle.
Designed as a military zone at the beginning, the Alhambra is located on a strategic point, with a view over the whole city and is protected by the mountains and surrounded by forest. The Alhambra became the royal residence and court of Granada in the mid-13th century after the establishment of the Nasrid Kingdom and the construction of the first palace by the founding king Mohammed ibn Yusuf Ben Nasr, better known as Alhamar. It’s the only surviving palatine city of the Islamic Golden Age and a remnant of the Nasrid Dynasty, the last Islamic kingdom in Western Europe.
Enjoy a guided tour of the Alhambra Palace on our Magnifico Spain and Portugal tour.
4. Newgrange Tombs, Ireland
Newgrange Tombs was built by Stone Age farmers during the Neolithic period, around 3200 B.C., making it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids.
Archaeologists classified Newgrange as a passage tomb, however Newgrange is now recognised as an ancient temple, a place of astrological, spiritual, religious and ceremonial importance, much as present day cathedrals are places of prestige and worship where dignitaries may be laid to rest.
Newgrange is part of a complex of monuments built along a bend of the River Boyne known collectively as Brú na Bóinne. The other two principal monuments are Knowth (the largest) and Dowth, but throughout the area there are as many as 35 smaller mounds.
Visit Newgrange Tombs with Albatross Tours on the Ireland Connection tour.
5. Pont du Gard, France
The Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge was built in the 1st century A.D. to carry water over 50 kilometres to the Roman colony of Nemausus. It crosses the river Gardon near the town of Vers-Pont-du-Gard in southern France. The Pont du Gard is the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges, and one of the best preserved.
The Pont du Gard is a true testament to Roman engineering. It peaks at over 48 metres and crosses the river over a length of 275 metres. It is estimated that it took between 10 and 15 years to construct the Nimes aqueduct with Pont du Gard taking less than 5 years with a crew of 800 to 1,000 workers. Like many Roman constructions, the Pont du Gard was built without mortar. It served as an aqueduct until the 6th century before becoming a tollgate in the Middle Ages and finally a road bridge from the 18th to 20th century.
See the ancient Pont du Gard with Albatross Tours on the La Grande France tour.
6. Diocletian Palace, Croatia
Diocletian’s Palace, located in Split, Croatia, was built in 305 A.D. for the Roman Emperor Diocletian. The palace was built from glossy white stone transported from the nearby island of Brač, and construction lasted 10 years. Diocletian spared no expense, importing marble from Italy and Greece, as well as columns and 12 sphinxes from Egypt.
Over the centuries, the city of Split has grown up around Diocletian’s Palace, and during this time, many of the Palace’s buildings have remained intact. Today, some 2,000 people live within the compound’s thick walls, making it a lively urban quarter. Getting lost in the maze of surrounding streets is the best way to explore Split—as you wander around, you’ll discover cafés and shops tucked into millennia-old buildings.
Explore Diocletian Palace with Albatross Tours on the Croatia and Adriatic tour.
7. Stonehenge, Britain
Stonehenge is one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments. It was built in several stages: the first monument was an early henge monument, built about 5,000 years ago, and the unique stone circle was erected in the late Neolithic period about 2500 B.C. In the early Bronze Age many burial mounds were built nearby.
The monument consists of a ring of standing stones, each around 4 metres high, 2.1 metres wide, and weighing around 25 tonne. The stones are set within earthworks in the middle of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds. While many modern scholars now agree that Stonehenge was once a burial ground, they have yet to determine what other purposes it served and how a civilization without modern technology—or even the wheel—produced the mighty monument.
See the incredible Stonehenge of the Albatross Best of British tour.