Best Cities in Europe for History Buffs

You can’t get enough culture in these cities...

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  • 08 August 2019
  • • 7 min read

One of the best things about travelling is the knowledge you get in return. Visiting new places and learning more about the world is what inspires us here at St Christopher’s Inns. 

One of the most endearing things about Europe is the fascinating history. Each city has its own story - and there’s a hell of a lot to learn. If you consider yourself a bit of a history buff, and if you want to discover more about Europe’s past and how it’s shaped today’s present, then this is the article for you. From empires and assassinations to Tsars and Royals, we’ve rounded up the best cities in Europe to visit if you love history and culture…

Barcelona

Barcelona has a lot to offer backpackers; not just partying, beaches and tapas. The Catalan capital excels when it comes to art and architecture with world-famous landmarks like the Sagrada Familia, Park Gaudi and Font Màgica de Montjuic each a delight to witness. Learn all about Anton Gaudi, the architect who changed the face of Catalonian architecture, explore the city’s Gothic Quarter and delve into the past or experience some flamenco, a dance that is through to have originated in Andalusia when Spain was under Arab domination.

The culture in Catalan different somewhat to rest of Spain and you can be part of the action if you happen to be in the city during one of the many traditional festivals that take place throughout the year. For a real taste of Catalan culture, try and time your visit with  one of the many festivals.

The Spanish city has a history that goes back 2000 years and you can learn all about it at the Museu d'Història de Catalunya, a museum dedicated to the areas past. 

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Athens

If you’ve never been to Athens, you should do so immediately if you’re history obsessed. It’s one of the oldest cities in the world. Full of mystery, enchantment and fascinating Greek mythology,  a trip to Greece’s capital seriously puts things into perspective when you think about the ancient times. 

The city has the longest history than any other city in Europe. You can’t miss a visit to the Acropolis, a protected World Heritage site located on a hilltop and the oldest complete ancient Greek structure still standing today. Athens is also home to 5th century BC landmarks so if you’re into ancient ruins and stories of gods, Athens is for you.The Parthenon temple which lies on the Acropolis is also one of the world’s best sights to see; it’s the world’s finest doric masterpiece dedicated to the goddess Athena.

Need a hostel in Athens? Check out the AthensStyle Hostel which has a rooftop boasting spectacular views of the Acropolis.

Berlin 

For those of you fascinated by the history of World War II, Berlin is a bucket list city. The city has more museums than it has rainy days! You could easily fill an entire week with historic museums and memorials and not get bored of the stories. Before the war, Berlin was a major world city, making a name for itself through music, education and even politics and military affairs amongst others. Unfortunately after WWII, the city pretty much turned to rubble - it was almost completely destroyed by bombings and street violence. Then the Soviet Union took over the East, bringing about the Berlin Wall and the tragic 45 year Cold War. 

Visit the Topography of Terror and the Jewish Museum to learn more about the Holocaust, and pay your respects at the Holocaust Memorial. Make your way to the Berlin Wall Memorial to hear stories from the Cold War, and walk along the East Side Gallery to see part of the Wall now covered in over 100 stunning pieces of colourful and poignant artwork. 

Berlin even has a whole ‘island’ dedicated to museums, appropriately named ‘Museum Island’, where you’ll find 5 of the city’s most grand museums or galleries. 

Need a hostel in Berlin? Check out St Christopher’s Inns

Rome

When you’re asking about the best European cities for history, there’s no looking past the Romans. Rome’s ancient past is a fascinating one. The city even contains one of the 7 Wonders of the World. Going all the way back to the beginning, according to legend, Rome was founded in 753 BC by two twin sons raised by a she-wolf… Many years later, the Roman Colosseum was built and still stands today, 1,949 years on. Step inside the Colosseum to see the scale of the structure, and try to imagine how nearly 2,000 years ago the place would fill with 55,000 spectators, often ready to watch a deadly gladiator combat. 

There’s also so much history to learn in the Vatican City. Visit the Pantheon, St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums which date back to 1506, to see some of the most famous sculptures, paintings, ceilings and tapestries in the world. The most noteworthy being within the Sistine Chapel, a room no history fan can miss on a tour of one of the most culture-rich capitals of Europe. 

Looking for the best hostel in Rome? Check out Alessandro Palace

London

History lovers are in for a treat on a visit to the English capital. London’s historic museums are absolutely packed with fascinating stories, so spending just a few days in the city means you simply won’t even scratch the surface. Delve deeper into the complex world of the British monarchy, and discover how former Kings and Queens ruled the country on a tour of the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey or Hampton Court Palace - some of the facts you’ll learn here are really outrageous. The Natural History Museum is one of London’s best free museums where you’ll find some world-famous archaeological displays and spend hours reading your way through the many different zones. The Victoria and Albert Museum is also free, and great for history lovers that crave a touch of culture, too. 

The Royal Airforce Museum, the Imperial War Museum, HMS Belfast, the British Museum, even walking tours based on stories about Jack the Ripper … There’s a reason history lovers are so obsessed with the city of London. 

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St Petersburg

Russia is one of those bucket list cities you need to visit at least once in your life. The port city St Petersburg is at the centre of the country’s cultural history and we highly recommend it for culture vultures. This imperial capital was once home to Tsars who used to rule a controversial regime; walk the ground they walked and learn about their governmental reforms that shook the country. The mysteries you can discover in the several palaces in St Petersburg is simply fascinating. There are more than 250 museums in the city to keep you occupied. If you love majestic buildings, opulent streets and grandeur, then make St Petersburg you’re next stop. The whole city feels like a film set. Also known as the Venice of the North, there are countless stretching canals in the city.

The State Hermitage Museum will give you access to almost 3 million different items in 360 different rooms of Russian art.  

Need a hostel in St Petersburg? Check out Hostelworld

Paris

There’s nowhere quite like Paris when it comes to the cultural capitals of Europe. With the world famous Le Louvre art gallery right there in the centre, those that crave culture and art on a city break will be in their element. Paris’ history is also an intriguing one, from Joan of Arc in the 1450s, to The Renaissance, the reign of King Louis XIV, the French Revolution and the World Wars.

The Musee des Archives Nationales, Musee Carnavalet and Nissim de Camondo are just a few of the many incredible history museums in Paris for your to discover more about the country’s past. But it’s art that Paris excels in the most. Art lovers will love that there are enough incredible, world-renowned galleries in Paris to make filling an itinerary with art unbelievably easy.

Need a hostel in Paris? Check out St Christopher’s Inns

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