As we all know, Europe is chock full of historic sites. From prehistoric England to Ancient Rome, there are a huge number of archaeological sites in Europe. Pretty much every country has a few, while some are simply dotted with them.
There are many reasons to plan a European holiday—from beaches and nightlife to epic coasts and towering mountains—but the wealth of historical, cultural and archaeological sites in Europe makes a culture trip arguably the most popular. Nowhere else can you learn so much in so little time and so (relatively) small an area.
Carnac Menhirs, Carnac, France
Meaning “long stones” in old Brittonic languages, menhirs dot the plains around Carnac in modern-day Brittany. Comprising more than 3,000 individual standing stones, this is actually the world’s largest collection of its kind. Hewn from local rock, they were erected by Brittany’s pre-Celtic people and date from 3300 B.C.E. to as early as 4500 B.C.E.
Ephesus, Selçuk, Turkey
Built in the 10th century B.C.E., superbly well-preserved Ephesus was once a thriving Greek and Roman city. It was renowned for the Temple of Artemis, located nearby and considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Other notable buildings include the imposing Library of Celsus and the Gate of Augustus.
Ephesus lies on the western coast of modern-day Turkey and is one of the eastern Mediterranean’s greatest Roman archaeological sites.
Diocletian’s Palace, Split, Croatia
Constructed as the retirement residence of Roman Emperor Diocletian at the turn of the 4th century, Diocletian’s Palace makes up the very heart of the Croatian city of Split. In fact, this ancient palace kickstarted the development and growth of the city.
Much of it still exists today, while the rest of the city grew around it. When visiting Split, you can still wander these ancient streets. People even still live and work here.
Bru Na Boinne, Ireland
Bru na Boinne is an area in a bend of the River Boyne 40 kilometers north of Dublin. Its name literally meaning Palace (or Mansion) of the Boyne. It’s one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe. Bru na Boinne comprises the nearly 5,000-year-old megalithic passage graves of Dowth, Newgrange and Knowth. There are also almost 100 other, smaller monuments.
Forum Romanum, Rome, Italy
The Roman Forum is one of the top attractions in Rome. It’s a collection of ruins of many ancient government buildings, dominated by the Temple of Saturn. These ancient monuments span various periods in Roman history, from the Roman Kingdom through Imperial Rome. Once the center of everyday life in Rome, the Forum is now a major archaeological site..
Skara Brae, Scotland
Eight well-preserved Neolithic stone houses make Skara Brae the most complete Neolithic village in Europe. This site is much older than Stonehenge, dating from roughly 3,100 B.C.E. to 2,500 B.C.E. Skara Brae is located on the west coast of Mainland, the largest of the Orkney Islands. Its remote and secluded location makes this ancient site all the more fascinating and impressive.
Acropolis, Athens, Greece
The Acropolis of Athens is by far the most famous of all acropolises in Greece. An ancient citadel perched on an outcrop above the city, the Acropolis encompasses many historically and architecturally significant buildings. The most notable structures include the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Propylaea.
The ancient Roman town of Pompeii is perhaps the world’s most famous example of the devastation a volcanic eruption can cause. Pompeii was a thriving Roman community when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. The town was completely wiped out. Other nearby towns, most famously Herculaneum, also suffered greatly.
It was not until the 18th century, however, that Pompeii was rediscovered. Nowadays, it’s a major tourist attraction in the gorgeous Bay of Naples.
Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England
Perhaps the most famous of the archaeological sites in Europe, Stonehenge has mesmerized and fascinated people for centuries. This prehistoric monument dates from between 3000 B.C.E. and 2000 B.C.E. and is one of the United Kingdom’s most famous ancient sites.
This iconic ring of standing stones lies in the middle of a much larger archaeological site near Amesbury. It includes literally hundreds of burial mounds and other “henges,” like Avebury Henge and Woodhenge.