Europe includes some dramatically different countries. Vast Russia at its eastern edge is a land of freezing winters, large stretches of flat and arid steppe and spectacular cities. As a contrast in the west, Italy, France and Spain epitomize a romantic Mediterranean lifestyle. Their historical cities are filled with churches, museums and galleries, along with cafes and restaurants whose tables spill out onto the pavements. Further north, the UK is home to London, the bustling capital that contains Roman remains alongside Regency palaces and contemporary skyscrapers.
Tourists from Canada looking to book cheap flights to Europe should decide in advance where they want to visit as there is so much on offer in this continent. Broadly speaking, Western Europe is the more developed half, with prosperous and stable cities and a host of attractions and hotels for tourists. Eastern Europe, where many countries recently joined the European Union, is shaking off the memory of Communism and welcoming tourists to under-discovered cities, beaches and ski resorts.
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The Mediterranean, in the south and west of Europe, enjoy a warm climate, with hot summers and mild winters. Travelling north in the west, the top parts of Italy along with France tend to have hot summers, but cooler, wetter winters. In the UK summers can be warm, but winters are often long and wet. Spain and Portugal can be very hot and dry in summer, with cold and wet winters. A continuation of the Gulf Stream (North Atlantic Drift) keeps the climate in Scandinavia, the UK, Ireland, and Iceland fairly mild. Further east, Russia has long, freezing winters though temperatures in the summer can be good.
Getting around Europe
On the whole, it is very easy to travel around Europe, especially in the west. The low-cost airline system is very well-developed with an extensive network, especially within and from Germany and the UK and Ireland. Because of the proliferation of low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and easyJet, it is also simply to get to many of the Eastern European countries from the west. Once there, transport between cities and countries is less simple, and the train and bus network is easier.
Trains run across mainland Europe and, since the Eurotunnel was constructed, also connect the UK to France.
Buses (coaches) are readily available and a much cheaper way of travelling. However, they are typically a lot slower and often more uncomfortable than trains. Eurolines is a good low-cost coach operator to check.
Europe insider information
- Some of the world’s greatest poets and writers were born in Ireland. The cities, such as Dublin, are vibrant; the green countryside is peaceful and wears its scenery, ruins, and monuments with grace.
- France is a land of variety. There is a destination here to please beach lovers, adventure travellers, sports enthusiasts and culture vultures. France offers glorious beaches in the South, bustling cities (with Paris the most visited), quiet countryside villages and some of the best skiing to be found in the world in its Alpine resorts. And the cuisine is as diverse as the country.
- Italy is a country of romance and food. Rome, its capital is a city of splendour. Architecture from the time of the Roman Empire is still found in the city centre, alongside Renaissance churches and Fascist architecture. Milan is the prime fashion destination in the world, the canals of Venice make it one of the most romantic destinations and Naples and Sicily appear crazy and lawless on first impression but soon appeal to most tourists.
- The UK comprises Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Many tourists simply visit London, but away from the capital there is plenty to see. Hikers and bikers make their way across rolling green hills in the English countryside, or up craggy mountains in Scotland. The cities are diverse and unique, from Regency Brighton on the southern coast to urban Manchester in the north.
- On the Iberian Peninsula, step back from Spain’s beaches to find fascinating sights and charming towns. The world now comes to explore Portugal with its modern resorts and towns where old traditions remain the way of life.
- The Netherlands has a rich history as a world power; Luxembourg has dense forests, medieval castles, and Battle of the Bulge memorials; and Belgium is a feast for connoisseurs and gourmands.
- Austria was once the heart of the Hapsburg Empire and still has the regal buildings and culture from this time. It is especially popular in the winter with skiers and snowboarders who flock to resorts such as Kitzbuhel and Saalbach.