Distinct cultures, defined by their language, customs, specialities, idiosyncrasies, sense of style and way of life, make Western Europe an endlessly fascinating place to travel. You’ll visit the main cities in Western Europe namely Amsterdam, Lucerne, and Paris. You’ll behold fascinating scenery and cruise scenic waterways. Along country borders in particular, you can see where cultures intertwine and overlap. You’ll also see subtle cultural shifts between each country’s own regions, and the influence of trade and immigration over the centuries. Wherever you travel, allow time to soak up local life in public squares, parks and gardens, vibrant festivals, and in neighbourhood pubs and cafes where you can watch the world go by.
Think of a famous idea. Any famous idea. Or for that matter any brushstroke, article of clothing, architectural style, camera technique, great thinker that should have been medicated, or hip reason to brew a Molotov cocktail. If that idea is Western, then it is probably French (or at least hotly contested and contributed to a French intellectual movement). Your first walk around Paris will be defined by a paralyzing level of excitement. Your first party in Monaco might result in a Hangover-esque situation. The successes of James Baldwin, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway suggest that we couldn’t have chosen a better spot; there is a pervading sense in France that everything is here.
Germany has the largest population of any EU country. Its territory stretches from the North Sea and the Baltic in the north to the Alps in the south and is traversed by some of Europe’s major rivers such as the Rhine, Danube and Elbe. German is the most widely spoken first language in the European Union. Germany is the world’s third largest economy, producing automobiles, precision engineering products, electronic and communications equipment, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and much more besides. Its companies have invested heavily in the central and east European countries which joined the EU in 2004.
Ah, Switzerland—home of chocolates, pocket knives, skiing, Swatches, and even Helvetica font. Squeezed between Italy, France, and Germany, most travelers overlook this notoriously neutral, spending their time and dollars picking only at the bread of this European sandwich while never discovering the rich taste of the meat at its center—or, dare we say, the Swiss cheese. While the Swiss will likely be slow to start a conversation with you on the street, they’ll make up for the cold shoulder with warm hospitality, offered by a number of mountain-nestled inns that offer the pure-winter view one could find only in the snow-capped roll of the Alps, or maybe in the tundra of Hoth. Thankfully, however, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any AT-ST walkers here. But Switzerland isn’t all cheese, chocolate, winter sports, and private banking. Local artisans will be happy to pack you with more cheese than a ’50s drive-in horror flick or a ’90s rom-com, while attractions like The Chocolate Train (not actually made of chocolate) will give your eyes a panoramic view of the country and your stomach a panoramic taste of sweet, brown gold.
If you are planning a trip to the Netherlands, this is a country that offers a number of unique delights. Often called Holland, especially in Europe, this familiar name actually refers only to two of the country’s 12 provinces. The Netherlands is relatively flat laden with canals and densely populated. The country provides a number of interesting destinations, most noted for their unique history and attractiveness.