Whether it’s exploring a museum dedicated to cats in Montenegro or getting slathered in chocolate in Czech Republic, there’s no shortage of unusual things to do in Europe. We’ve handpicked some of the coolest experiences on the continent for you to try.
1. Ogle this gravity-defying monastery in France
It’s 1,300-year-old, it sits on top of a single rock, and it’s one of the most wonderfully unusual things to do in Europe. Mont Saint-Michel is bucket-list gold: entirely surrounded by water depending on the tides. If you’re staying in the area, book into gorgeous seaside-based Auberge Saint-Pierre for the night and experience modern luxury in a charming country house setting.
2. Visit a vampire graveyard in Kraków
Deep beneath Old Town’s main square lies a 4,000-square-metre archaeological excavation with a difference. Rynek Underground – which spans back seven centuries – features remnants of everyday life in the Polish city over the years. But also included in the displays are suspected vampires, due to the methods used for burial. Brilliantly, the medieval graveyard is brought to life with holograms and multimedia trickery. Just 20 km south of Kraków is Hotel Dwór Sieraków, a four-star historic hideaway that’s retained its 19th-century charm with 30 rooms decorated in charming English style.
3. Wander cat lover’s paradise in Montenegro
Kotor is a cat haven. The ancient fortified town on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast is absolutely packed with the four-legged felines, leading to the creation of a Cat Museum (Museo del Gatto di Cattaro) in charming Old Town. Your admission fee (just one euro) helps support the local whiskered community. The aptly named Hotel Cattaro is your perfect home-away-from-home during your stay – a centuries-old building that’s now a four-star boutique bolthole.
4. Explore Caragh Lake in Co. Kerry, Ireland
One of Ireland’s lesser-known beauty spots (a fact that takes some doing in a country famed for its jaw dropping landscapes), Caragh Lake is around six kilometres south-west of Killorglin. The vast, glass- lake is surrounded by rugged mountains and dotted with small beaches and coves, perfect for exploring by kayak or canoe. The lake’s size means the waters can be choppy, but the surface is often glass-like. It’s at times like these you can float silently by, letting the tranquil air and soothing reflections of blue and green nourish the soul. Look out for wildlife: feral goats and cormorants are common, and if you’re lucky you’ll spot the occasional white-tailed eagle. If you’re staying in the area, book into gorgeous Victorian residence Carrig Country House for the weekend to see how its beautifully restored old-world charm and the tranquillity of the lake fit seamlessly together – almost intertwined.
5. Learn how to catch a leprechaun in Dublin
Ireland’s lucky little mascots; the wee men with a pot of gold, actually have their own museum. The National Leprechaun Museum is a one-of-a-kind experience, showcasing everything from faeries to little known Irish legends. After your leprechaun adventure, book a table at L’Ecrivain, an incredible restaurant based in the heart of Georgian Dublin that’s famous for its superb Irish/French fare.
6. Savour a Bohemian chocolate massage in Czech Republic
When was the last time you had a life-restoring massage in a Baroque castle dating back to 1699? Chateau Liblice is a four-star sanctuary based in Liblice, a pamper extravaganza of Finnish saunas, sun parlours (a revolutionary way of safe sunbathing), hydro-massage showers, herbal wraps and all kinds of full body massages (including a chocolate massage, dreamy).
7. Bathe among the birdlife in Sweden
Örarevet Nature Reserve is of national interest due to its truly unique birdlife, unusual vegetation and shallow bathing spaces that are perfect for kids. Ideal for reflection and recreation, you’ll feel your soul recharging as you breathe in fresh Swedish air and rare plants among the picturesque nature trails. Closeby is Stufvenäs Guesthouse: a luxurious historic hotel on an ancient site with the old-fashioned ambience to match. It may have first been inhabited 5,000 years ago, but the spa treatments, stunning restaurants and sublime services are modern perfection.
9. See where Roald Dahl was baptised in Cardiff
Explore the beautiful Welsh countryside and stop off at Norwegian Church on Cardiff Bay, the place children’s literary genius Roald Dahl was christened. The famous author was the king of wild and imaginative stories: a stay at nearby Holm House will feed your brain and soul with twelve truly unique bedrooms and spa overlooking the sea.
10. Pace the floors of a World Heritage castle in Wales
Image credit: Crown Copyright (2017) Cadw
Exploring the pumped-up and imposing Caernarfon Castle is one of the coolest things to do in Europe with the family. Unlike most castles with their rounded royal shapes, Caernarfon is brutal, imposing and intimidating. This is a fortress that wasn’t to be messed with – its powerful presence was created by King Edward I and granted World Heritage status. Check into the wonderfully homey Ty’n Rhos after your visit – the atmosphere couldn’t be more different from the medieval castle. Expect the friendliest of staff, squishiest of beds and belly-filling food: nothing is too much trouble here.
11. Dive head-first into the world of hats in Latvia
It might be tiny, but this unique museum in UNESCO-crowned Riga is home to one of the largest collections of traditional and ethnic headwear in the world. From Thai hats covered in coins to bonnets made from human hair, it’s one of the more unusual things to do in Europe and makes for a perfect photo opportunity: lots of the headgear can be tried on. Conveniently located in the centre of Riga is Metropole, a 19th-century bolthole with world-class service and forward-thinking facilities.
12. See the smallest city in the world in Croatia
With barely 20 residents, the teeny town of Hum in Istria’s centre is one of the most unique and amazing things to do in Europe. Legend goes that it was built using the stones left over when giants were building towns close by. Sample the local beverage, biska, a special brandy spiced with mistletoe. Hotel Villa Astra is just over an hour’s drive away, with seven beautiful guest rooms, sea views, a secluded beach, swimming pool and infectiously good vibes.
13. Marvel the work of giants in Northern Ireland
Bushmills-based natural wonder The Giant’s Causeway is an unmissable sight in Northern Ireland. Unlike any other in the world, visiting the weird and wonderful rock formations is one of the most unusual things to do in Europe. The 40,000 basalt columns were the result of a volcanic eruption, although legend goes it was built by a giant. No visit here is complete without a snuggly stay in Bushmills Inn.
14. Wrap your head around a monastery in the sky in Greece
If you’re looking for day trips from Thessaloniki, this is one of the most amazing things to do in Europe. Arguably the weirdest monastery in the world, the Holy Trinity Monastery is built on the ‘meteora stones’ which translates roughly to ‘in the middle of the sky’: the idea being that the religious building would be closer to God. Make Bristol Hotel Thessaloniki your base for the heavenly trip.
15. Take the train through Slovenia’s largest cave
Wrap yourself in a kindly-provided green felt cloak (to shield you from the humidity) and enjoy a minitaure train ride through underground lakes, fairytale stalactites, lofty rock formations and a labyrinth of tunnels. Postojnska Jama is the largest cave system in Slovenia and home to strange creatures named ‘human fish’. To make your trip to Ljubljana even more memorable, spend the night in Antiq Palace – a 16th-century former residence of several noble families and now a stunning historic hotel.
16. Catch the work of charlatans in Vienna
If you’re looking for unusual things to do in Europe, this completely off-the-wall art experience shouldn’t be missed. The Museum of Art Fakes is stuffed with replicas made by famous forgers, this (ironically) one-of-a-kind gallery is totally unforgettable. You can stay in the oldest hotel during your Vienna visit: Hotel Stefanie dates all the way back to 1600 and is still ran by the same family (now in its fourth generation).
17. Sleep in the same Tuscan castle as Dante once stayed in
Hailing all the way back to the 13th century, Castello di Gargonza is the same castle where Dante Alighieri of Divine Comedy fame spent his exile. And you can actually spend the night here. Sitting within an ancient fortified village in Arezzo, Italy, the time-turning property retains its original character: rooms cut into rock, looming wooden staircases and blackened fireplaces remind guests of simple times gone by.