All About Europe

 

Europe

Europe encompasses an area of 10,400,000 km² (4,000,000 square miles), stretching from Asia to the Atlantic, and from Africa to the Arctic. It is one of the world’s seven continents. European countries welcome more than 480 million international visitors per year, more than half of the global market, and 7 of the 10 most visited countries are European nations. It's easy to see why - a well preserved cultural heritage, open borders and efficient infrastructure makes visiting Europe a breeze, and rarely will you have to travel more than a few hours before you can immerse yourself in a new culture, and dive into a different phrasebook. Although it is the world's smallest continent in land surface area, there are profound differences between the cultures and ways of life in its countries.

 

History

The earliest concrete signs of written European culture can be found in Hellenic Greece. The mythical Homer (800 B.C.?), Hesiod (753 B.C.) and Kallinos (728 B.C.) are three of the oldest poets in Europe. The Romans believed that their city was founded in 753 B.C. Modern archaeologists and historian believe that the area of modern day Rome has been inhabited since at least 1000 to 800 B.C.

From 300 A.D. Christianity in Europe started to spread. Around 500 A.D. the Roman Empire collapsed, with France at that time coming under the rule of the Merovingians. In 714, the Carolian empire was founded and lasted until 911. The period after this date is often called the high-middle ages and lasted until around 1300, followed by the late middle ages which ended around 1500, giving birth to a period of European history normally refered to as The Renaissance or the re-birth. The people of this period actively rediscovered classical Greco-Roman culture.

Between 1492 - 1972 many European nations (like Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, Russia, France and The Netherlands) ruled or had ruled over most of the known world, with the exception of East Asia (Mainland China, Japan and Tibet) and parts of Antartica. This was called colonialism and was stopped after WWII in favour of a more humane, liberal and cost-effective method called globalism.

Europe, prior to the conclusion of the Second World War, was a region ravaged by large-scale "total war". National leaders realized after World War II that closer socio-economic and political integration was needed to ensure that such tragedies never happened again. Starting with humble beginnings, the EU's first inception was the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC). The founding group of nations were Belgium, West Germany, Luxembourg, France, Italy and The Netherlands. Impressed with the results of the union, the six countries pressed on and in 1956 signed the treaty of Rome, with the ultimate goal of creating a common market — the European Economic Community (EEC). In 1967, the union was formalized further with a the creation of a single European Commission, as well as a council of ministers and a EU parliament.

Post-1967 the EU continued to rapidly grow; Denmark, Ireland and the United Kingdom joined in 1973. Greece joined in 1981, Spain and Portugal in 1986 and Austria, Finland and Sweden in 1995. To date, Norway and Switzerland have resisted membership for historical and economic reasons. The EU pressed on with economic integration and launched the Euro(€) across several nations on 1 January 2002. Currently, 18 nations, plus Kosovo, use the Euro as their official currency. In addition, San Marino, the Vatican, Monaco, Andorra and Montenegro, which are also not EU members, have been granted official permission to use the Euro.

In 2004, a further 10 countries joined the EU. These were: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. In 2007, a further 2 countries joined the EU. These were: Bulgaria and Romania, and as of 2010, Croatia, Iceland, Macedonia, and Turkey are official applicants.

 

Climate

Europe's climate ranges from subtropical near the Mediterranean Sea in the south, to subarctic near the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean in the northern latitudes. There is much here for the traveller to enjoy, with a bewildering array of diversity and languages and culture, cosmopolitan cities and spectacular scenery, let alone some of the leading cities of the world.

 

 

Regions

Map of Europe's regions
 
Map of Europe's regions
  Balkans
 
  Baltic states
 
  Britain and Ireland
 
  Caucasus
 
  Central Europe
 
  France and the Benelux
 
  Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus
 
  Iberia
 
  Italy
 
  Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus
 
  Scandinavia
 

 

 Note: Parts of Russia, Turkey and the Caucasus are sometimes considered to be a part of Asia due to both culture, history and geography.

 

Cities

These are some most visited European cities:

Amsterdam — the capital of the Netherlands with impressive architecture, lovely canals that criss cross the city, great shopping, and friendly people who nearly all speak English well .There is something for every traveller's taste here, whether you prefer culture and history, serious partying, or just the relaxing charm of an old European city. Amsterdam has over a million inhabitants in the urban area, and is in the Province of North-Holland. Amsterdam is not the seat of government (which is in The Hague), but it is the biggest city and the cultural and creative centre of the Netherlands.

 

 Districts of Amsterdam

Climate

Amsterdam is a large city and a major tourist destination, so you can visit it all year round. However, in winter the days are short (8 hours daylight around Christmas), and the weather may be too cold to walk around the city comfortably, let alone cycle. January and February are the coldest months, with lows around -1°C and highs around 5°C. July and August are the warmest months, with an average temperature of 72°F (22°C). Some things are seasonal: the tulip fields flower only in the spring, and Queen's Day (Koninginnedag) is always on 30 April, unless it falls on a Sunday. Queen Beatrix was actually born on 31 January, but since January is very cold, the celebrations are held on the day she became the queen of the Netherlands, which is also the birthday of her mother, Juliana.

 

 

Frankfurt  — the business and financial center of Germany and the largest city in the German state of Hesse. The city is known for its futuristic skyline and the biggest German airport. Located on the river Main, Frankfurt is the financial capital of Continental Europe and the transportation centre of Germany. Frankfurt is home of the European Central Bank and the German Stock Exchange. Furthermore, it hosts some of the world's most important trade shows, such as the Frankfurt Auto Show and the Frankfurt Book Fair.

When to visit

The best times for Frankfurt are late spring to early autumn. The summers tend to be sunny and warm around 25°C (77° F). Be prepared, however, for very hot summer days around 35 degrees (95° F) as well as for light rain. The winters can be cold and rainy (usually not lower than -10° C/14° F), but there is hardly any snow inside Frankfurt itself.

If you intend to stay overnight, you may wish to avoid times when trade fairs are held, as this will make finding affordable accommodations a challenging task. The biggest are the Frankfurt Motor Show (Automobil-Ausstellung) in every two years in mid-September (next in 2011) and the Book Fair (Buchmesse) yearly in mid-October; see Fairs for details.

 

 

London —London is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — consider printing them all. Noisy, vibrant and truly multicultural, London is a megalopolis of people, ideas and energy. The capital and largest city of both the United Kingdom and of England, it is also the largest city in Western Europe and the European Union. Situated on the River Thames in South-East England, Greater London has an official population of nearly 8 million people — although the figure of over 14 million for the city's total metropolitan area more accurately reflects London's size and importance. London is one of the great "world cities," and remains a global capital of culture, fashion, finance, politics and trade. London will host the 2012 Summer Olympics.

 

Central London

Central London and inner boroughs.
 
Central London and inner boroughs.
  Bloomsbury
Vibrant historic district made famous by a group of turn-of-the-century writers and for being the location of the British Museum and numerous historic homes, parks, and buildings. Part of the Borough of Camden.
  City of London
The City is the area of London that originally lay within the ancient city walls and is now a major world financial centre.
  Covent Garden
One of the main shopping and entertainment districts. Incorporates some of London's theatreland. Part of the City of Westminster and Borough of Camden.
  Holborn-Clerkenwell
Buffer zone between London's West End and the City of London financial district, home to the Inns of Court
  Leicester Square
West End district comprising Leicester Square, Chinatown, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus and the centre of London's cinema and theatre land
  Mayfair-Marylebone
Some extremely well-heeled districts of west central London and most of the city's premier shopping street
  Notting Hill-North Kensington
Lively market, interesting history, the world famous carnival and diverse population
  Paddington-Maida Vale
Largely residential district of northwest central London with lots of mid-range accommodation
  Soho
Dense concentration of highly fashionable restaurants, cafés, clubs and bars, as well as London's gay village
  South Bank
South side of the river Thames with good views of the city, several theatres and the London Eye
  South Kensington-Chelsea
An extremely well-heeled inner London district with famous department stores, Hyde Park, many museums and the King's Road
 

Westminster
A city in its own right, the seat of government and an almost endless list of historical and cultural sights, such as Buckingham Palace, The Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey.

Climate

Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 8 8 11 13 17 20 23 23 19 15 11 9
Nightly lows (°C) 2 2 4 5 8 11 14 13 11 8 5 3
Precipitation (cm) 5.2 3.4 4.2 4.5 4.7 5.3 3.8 4.7 5.7 6.2 5.2 5.4
                         
                         

See the 5 day forecast for London at the Met Office
 

Despite a perhaps unfair reputation for being unsettled, London enjoys a dry and mild climate on average. Only one in three days on average will bring rain and often only for a short period. In some years such as 2010 there is no rain for several weeks.

 

Winter in London is mild compared to nearby continental European cities, due to both the presence of the Gulf Stream and urban heat effect. Average daily maximum is 8°C (46°F) in December and January. Snow does occur, usually a few times a years but rarely heavy (a few years being exceptions such as the winters of 2010 and 2009, with temperatures dipping down to sub-zeros regularly). Daylight hours are short with darkness filling up the sky by 4pm in December.

Summer is perhaps the best season for tourists as it has long daylight hours as well as mild temperatures. The average daily high temperatures in July and August are around 24°C (75°F) The highest temperature since 2000 was recorded once in August at 38°C (100°F). This means London can feel hot and humid for several days in the summer months. Also, because of urban heat effect, during night time it could feel muggy.

Regardless of which time of the year, the weather in London could change quickly from sunny to rain and from hot to cold.

 

 

Rome - (Italian: Roma), the 'Eternal City', is the capital of Italy and of the Lazio (Latium) region. It's the famed city of the Roman Empire, the Seven Hills, La Dolce Vita (sweet life), the Vatican City and Three Coins in the Fountain. Rome, as a millenium-long centre of power, culture and religion, having been the centre of one of the globe's greatest civilizations ever, has exterted a huge influence over the world in its c. 2,500 years of existence.

The Historic Center of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With wonderful palaces, millenium-old churches and basilicas, grand romantic ruins, opulent monuments, ornate statues and graceful fountains, Rome has an immensely rich historical heritage and cosmopolitan atmosphere, making it one of Europe and the world's most visited, famous, influential and beautiful capitals. Today, also, Rome has a growing nightlife scene, and is also seen as a shopping heaven, being regarded as one of the fashion capitals of the world (some of Italy's oldest jewellery and clothing establishments were founded in the city). So, with so many sights and things to do, Rome can truly be classified a "global city".

 

Central Rome

Rome can be divided into several districts. The so-called historical center (centro storico) is quite small, only around 4% of the city's area. This is mainly made up of Old Rome and Colosseo. Districts are explained below:

Rome's central districts
 
Rome's central districts
  Modern Center
Where many of the hotels are, as well as shopping and dining galore along the Via Veneto; home to the Quirinale, Trevi fountain, Barberini, Castro Pretorio, and Repubblica areas.
  Old Rome
The center of the Roman medieval and Renaissance periods, with beautiful plazas, cathedrals, the Pantheon, and plenty of laid-back dining; includes the Navona, Campo de' Fiori, and the Jewish Ghetto neighborhoods.
  Vatican
The Papal City State and its endless treasure troves of sights, relics, and museums, as well as the surrounding Italian neighborhood.
  Colosseo
The heart of ancient Rome, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Forum of Augustus, the Forum and Markets of Trajan, the Capitoline and its museums.
  North Center
Situated in the north part of Rome, home to the Villa Borghese, the Spanish Steps, and the elegant neighborhoods of Parioli and Salario.
  Trastevere
The land to the south of the Vatican, on the west bank of the Tiber River, full of narrow cobbled streets and lonely plazas that served as the inspiration for artists such as Giorgio de Chirico. Now arguably the center of Rome's artistic life.
  Aventino-Testaccio
Off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods of Rome with plenty of surprises waiting for interested travelers, as well as some truly great food.
  Esquilino-San Giovanni
South of Termini, with an indoor market, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, and the Cathedral of Rome Saint John in Lateran.
  Nomentano
Municipio III, the neighborhoods "behind" the train station. Vibrant night life in San Lorenzo.

 

Outskirts

  North
the vast suburban neighborhoods to the north of the center (Municipi 4, 15-20)
  South
home of the Appian Way park, several catacombs, fascist monumental architecture at EUR and extensive suburbs. (Municipi 5-13)
  Ostia
Rome's beach resort and the impressive ruins of Ancient Rome's harbour.

 

 

Vienna - (German: Wien, Austro-Bavarian: Wean) is the capital of the Republic of Austria. It is by far the largest city in Austria (pop. 1.7m), as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre. As the former home of the Habsburg court and its various empires, the city still has the trappings of the imperial capital it once was, and the historic city centre is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

 

Districts

Vienna has 23 districts or wards know singularly as Bezirk in Austrian German. These function subordinatly to the city as decentralized adminstrative branches of the commune, as well as making local decisions. They vary immensely in size and each has its own flair.

Vienna's Districts

  • Innere Stadt (1st District)
  • Leopoldstadt (2nd District)
  • Landstraße (3rd District)
  • Wieden (4th District)
  • Margareten (5th District)
  • Mariahilf (6th District)
  • Neubau (7th District)
  • Josefstadt (8th District)
  • Alsergrund (9th District)
  • Favoriten (10th District)
  • Simmering (11th District)
  • Meidling (12th District)
  • Hietzing (13th District)
  • Penzing (14th District)
  • Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus (15th District)
  • Ottakring (16th District)
  • Hernals (17th District)
  • Währing (18th District)
  • Döbling (19th District)
  • Brigittenau (20th District)
  • Floridsdorf (21st District)
  • Donaustadt (22nd District)
  • Liesing (23rd District)

The city has a very centralized layout radiating from the historic first district, or Inner-City with the Stephansdom and Stephansplatz at the centre of a bullseye. It is encircled by the Ringstraße (Ring Road), a grand boulevard constructed along the old city walls, which were torn down at the end of the 19th century. Along the Ringstraße are many famous and grand buildings, including the Rathaus [City Hall], the Austrian Parliament, the Hofburg Palace, the Natural History Museum, the Museum of Art History (Kunsthistorisches Museum), and the State Opera House.

Districts 2-9 are considered the core districts and are gathered within the Gürtel (Belt Road), which encircles the core districts as an outer ring concentric to the Ring around the first district, with the noteable exception of Leopoldstart (District 2).

Leopoldstadt (the 2nd District) is the southern half of the island that is formed between the Danube and the Danube Canal. It streches from the more wild forests of the Prater in the south up through the point where the Prater becomes a more formal park and amusement park where the transportation hub Praterstern is located. Going onward to the North are several neighborhoods from the Gründerzeit with dense housing including impressive Neo-Baroque buildings. Towards the north of the district along the Danube Canal across from Schwedenplatz is the Karmaliterviertel (Karmaliter Quarter) which was once a Jewish ghetto and today is the hub of Jewish life in Vienna. This area is indeed quite diverse across the board and is becomming gentrified. At the edge of that area is the Augarten. The area past that has been hand-picked for an intense development project that will turn several former freight yards into entire new neighborhoods. Along the Danube are numerous massive housing projects from the twenties onward.

Landstraße (District 3) is a rather large district to the southeast of the center separated more or less by the Wien River (which is partially underground and otherwise chanellized. Streching from the station Wien Mitte and the surrounding business and financial district where the lively shopping Landerstraßer Haupstraße shopping street begins over quiet residential areas where the Hundertwasser Haus is located all the way to the industrial hinterlands and the bus station at Erdberg in southeast to through neighborhoods countaining examples of public housing like the Rabenhof and many embassies to the Belvedere Palace and the Soviet Memorial at Schwarzenbergplatz.

Wieden (District 4) and Margareten (District 5) run from the area around the Opera south to where a the gigantic new central station is being built, with energetic pockets of businesses and squares to be discovered from the University of Technology to artsy galleries to a cluster of hair-cutting salons to even Vienna's miniture version of a Chinatown. This districts are bordered by the Wien River to the north.

Mariahilf (Distric 6) contrasts between the more raw areas around the Wien River where the Naschmarkt covers neighborhoods of bars and other popular bohemian and queer haunts along the Gumpfendorfer Straße, and it borders Neubau along Vienna's most popular shopping street the Mariahilferstraße up the the hill from the Gumpfendorfer Straße.

Neubau (District 7) starts with the aclaimed MuseumsQuartier next to the center and spreads across popular hip areas to the Westbahnhof (Western Railway Station).

Josefstadt (District 8) is the smallest district. Alsergrund (District 9) is known to be more affluent and also includes much of the University of Vienna several cozy business districts.

The outer 14 districts are largely less urban but are equally as diverse streching from Floridsdorf (21st District) which radiates from its own town center in the northeast on the eastern bank of the Danube and Donaustadt (22nd District) which includes a mix of farms, suburbia, soviet-style housing blocks, villages, the United Nations Headquarters and the Donauturn (Danube Tower) and includes the largest development project in Central Europe at Aspern, through tarditional worker-oriented districts like Simmering (11th District) and Favoriten (10th District) in the south to more mixed urban areas with much immigrant culture like Rüdolfsheim-Fünfhausen (15th District) and Ottakring (16th District) in the West and Briggitenau (20th District) in the northeast. Don't miss Schönbrunn Palace to the West along the Wien River in Hietzing (13th district).

 

Climate

Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 3 5 10 15 20 23 26 25 20 14 7 4
Nightly lows (°C) -2 -1 2 6 10 13 15 15 12 7 2 0
Precipitation (cm) 3.7 3.9 4.6 5.2 6.2 7.0 6.8 5.8 5.4 4.0 5.0 4.4
                         
                         

Averages of Vienna between 1971-2000

Spring starts sometime in late March, normally it is very brief and summer-like weather sets in before the trees have had time to grow back their leaves.

Summer in Vienna is usually warm. Weather in June and July is moderate and sunny with a light summer windy breeze. In August, there are some hot and humid days where it reaches 34°C (93°F), but overall, summer in Vienna is pleasant.

Autumn starts around September and it gets colder as it approaches November. A main disadvantage of the Viennese climate is that it is rather windy and usually overcast during these months.

Winter in Vienna can be just above 0°C (32°F) and drizzeling for days on end, or just below with dustings of snow that manage to melt again quickly. There is the occasional cold-snap where it will stay below freezing for a week or two at a time. Due to Vienna's relative easterly position in the Central European Time Zone its daylight hours (if its not too gray outside entirely) are relatively early during the winter.

 

 

Prague - (Czech: Praha) is the capital city and largest city of the Czech Republic. It is one of the larger cities of Central Europe and has served as the capital of the historic region of Bohemia for centuries.

 

Districts

Confusingly, several incompatible district systems are used in Prague. Partially, different systems are from different historic periods, but at least three different systems are used today for different purposes. To make things even worse, a single district name can be used in all the systems, but with different meanings.

For purposes of this guide, the "old" district system is used. In this "old" system, Prague is divided into ten numbered districts: Praha 1 through to Praha 10. If you encounter a higher district number, a different system is being used. For example, Praha 13 is part of the "old" Praha 5 district. The advantage of the "old" system of ten districts is that it is used on street signs and house numbers throughout the city, so you can always easily determine the "old" system district you are located in.

Praha 1 is the oldest part of the city, the original 'Town of Prague', and has by far the densest number of attractions. Praha 2 also contains important historic areas. In this central area, the "old" district system (or any of the newer systems) is too crude to be practical, a finer division is needed. Traditional city "quarters" provide such a division. Their disadvantage is that they are somewhat incompatible with the modern district systems - although "quarters" are smaller than the "old" system districts, a single quarter can belong to two or even more districts. The advantage is that these central quarters are well known and widely used and identical with the homonymous cadastral areas shown on on street and house number signs along the "old" district designation, allowing easy orientation.

Buildings in Czech Republic have two numbers, one blue and one red. The blue ones are the orientation numbers - it is the ordinal number of the building on its street. Historicaly these numbers always started from the end of the street which is closer to a river. As is normal in Europe, odd numbers belong on one side of the street and even numbers on the other. This allows you to find quickly the house you are looking for. The red numbers are related to the house register of the entire quarter (for example, Staré Město), and thus usually correspond to the order the buildings in that district were constructed. Most people do not remeber them; if somebody says e.g. the house is in Dlouha str. number 8, they will usually mean the blue number. Red numbers usually have 3 or more digits.

The most important quarters in the historic city centre are:

  • Castle (Hradčany)— The historic nexus of the city, and the highest point on the left bank. Mostly belongs to Praha 1, although a small part belongs to Praha 6.
  • Lesser Town (Malá strana)— The settlement around the castle; location of most governmental authorities, including Czech Parliament. Mostly belongs to Praha 1, although a very small part belongs to Praha 5.
  • Old Town (Staré město)— The nucleus of the right bank, the oldest part of Prague. The whole Old Town belongs to Praha 1.
  • Jewish Town (Josefov)— A small enclave within Old Town, the old Jewish ghetto. The whole Jewish Town belongs to Praha 1.
  • New Town (Nové město)— The district adjacent to Old Town, established in the 14th century. Large parts of the New Town belongs both to Praha 1 and Praha 2. A small part belongs to Praha 8.
  • Vysehrad (Vyšehrad)— The site of the old Vyšehrad castle south of the medieval Prague. The whole Vyšehrad belongs to Praha 2.
 

 

Amsterdam

Idyllic canals and houses with hoists

Idyllic canals and houses with hoists

Albert Cuyp Market

Albert Cuyp Market

 

Frankfurt

The skyline of Frankfurt

The skyline of Frankfurt

 

Römer square in Frankfurt am Main
 
Römer square in Frankfurt am Main
Frankfurt and the river Main
 
Frankfurt and the river Main

 

 

Emperor Antoninus Pius Presides at the Saalburg Main Gate
 

Emperor Antoninus Pius Presides

at the Saalburg Main Gate

 

London

Tower Bridge at dusk, bridging the River Thames.
Tower Bridge at dusk, bridging the
River Thames.
The world famous Great Westminster clocktower (the main bell is Big Ben)
 

The world famous Great Westminster clocktower (the main bell is Big Ben)

Oyster Card in use
Oyster Card in use
Double-decker bus in London
 
Double-decker bus in London
London Cab
 
London Cab
Buckingham Palace.
 
Buckingham Palace.

 

Rome 

The Colosseum
 
The Colosseum
Roman Forum
 
Roman Forum
The artsy Piazza Navona.
 
The artsy Piazza Navona.
Directions for pedestrians on a wall near Piazza Navona
 

Directions for pedestrians on a wall

near Piazza Navona

Campidoglio Rome
 
Campidoglio Rome
Coffers and Oculus of the Pantheon
 
Coffers and Oculus of the Pantheon
The interiot of the Santa Maria in Trastevere.
 

The interiot of the Santa Maria

in Trastevere.

The staircase in the Vatican museums
 
The staircase in the Vatican museums
The lovely Piazza della Repubblica.
 
The lovely Piazza della Repubblica
The Trevi Fountain, one of the most famous and popular sights in the city.
 

The Trevi Fountain, one of the most famous and popular sights in the city

snapshot of a Roman market
 
snapshot of a Roman market

 

Vienna

Michaelerplatz, outside grand entry to Hofburg Palace
 

Michaelerplatz, outside grand entry to Hofburg Palace

Statue in front of the Parliament
 
Statue in front of the Parliament
6., Mariahilf's Rooflines
 
6.Mariahilf's Rooflines
Fiaker coachmen waiting for customers
 
Fiaker coachmen waiting for customers
Hofburg Palace
 
Hofburg Palace
Belvedere, Wien
 
Belvedere, Wien
Hofburg Palace
 
Hofburg Palace
Kraut on Naschmarkt
 
Kraut on Naschmarkt
The original Sachertorte at Cafe Sacher (see Hotel Sacher)
 

The original Sachertorte at Cafe

Sacher

 

Prague

Týn Church in Old Town Square
 
Týn Church in Old Town Square
Prague Metro
 
Prague Metro
The Astronomical Clock
 
The Astronomical Clock
Frank Gehry's Dancing House
 
Frank Gehry's Dancing House