14 monumental European attractions — part 2

From a rotating chrome head in Prague to an enchanting castle ruin in the north of Luxembourg, here are 14 monumental and often overlooked attractions in Europe

Slovenia's mystical Lake Bled and the Gothic church on its island

Slovenia's mystical Lake Bled and the Gothic church on its island

Category Cities

Date 9th May 2017

With so many iconic landmarks to visit in Europe, it can be hard to decide which one to see next. We have all been wooed by the likes of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate and Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, but what about some of the more overlooked treasures of Europe? Here are 14 monumental attractions from around the continent.

Kościuszko Mound, Krakow, Poland

Krakow's Kościuszko Mound is, in essence, a heap of earth made with soil from many parts of Poland
Krakow’s Kościuszko Mound is, in essence, a heap of earth made with soil from many parts of Poland

Possibly the most interesting mound of dirt in Europe, the Kościuszko Mound is made from soil hailing from many different parts of Poland. You will find other mounds in Krakow (such as Krakus and Piłsudski) but this one is one of a kind, complete with a path that leads you to its top.

Held in high regard as a symbol of Polish independence, the locals here have been involved in intensive repair efforts to maintain the mound, amidst the threat of significant annual erosion. The Kościuszko Mound was originally erected to commemorate Polish national leader Tadeusz Kościuszko in 1820.

Find a flight to Krakow

Budapest Castle Hill Funicular, Budapest, Hungary

The Budapest Castle Hill Funicular is a vintage treat for all ages
The Budapest Castle Hill Funicular is a vintage treat for all ages

At the time of its construction in 1870, The Budapest Castle Hill Funicular was only the second funicular railway in existence. Located by the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, the first permanent crossing over the Danube in Budapest, this vintage delight will transport you from the end of the bridge and up to the Buda Castle, 295 feet above.

The funicular was destroyed during the Second World War but rebuilt in 1986 using pieces salvaged from the bombardment. Enjoy the enthralling views of the Danube from the top

Find a flight to Budapest

The Monastic City, Glendalough, Ireland

Glendalough's Monastic City lies nestled between streams, abundant woodlands and dreamy lakes
Glendalough’s Monastic City lies nestled between streams, abundant woodlands and dreamy lakes

It is hard to say what defines Glendalough best —  the cold, eerie lakes and the thick woods around them or the remains of the monastic settlement that pockmark the scenery and have etched themselves firmly into the idyllic narrative.

The latter is one of Ireland’s most iconic monastic sites, defined in no small part by its 98-foot high round tower. Give yourself plenty of time here so you can sit back and soak it all in.

Find a flight to nearby Dublin

Kaunas Museum for The Blind, Kaunas, Lithuania

Kaunas Museum for The Blind, located in the catacombs of St Michael the Archangel Church, is an experience unlike any other
Kaunas Museum for The Blind, located in the catacombs of St Michael the Archangel Church, is an experience unlike any other

Make no mistake about it —  the St Michael the Archangel Church in Lithuania’s second city is a beautiful sculpture in its own right. However, the real magic starts in its pitch-black catacombs, where you would be forgiven for thinking that there was nothing to see. In fact, there isn’t.

Now a museum, these catacombs are the location of a one-hour experience in the shoes of a blind person. Any cues to guide you through these obscure depths are olfactory or audio-based, immersing you in a world unknown.

Find a flight to Kaunas

Stone Flower, Jasenovac, Croatia

Croatia’s Stone Flower is a simple, albeit powerful monument, dedicated to those affected by the Ustaše massacres
Croatia’s Stone Flower is a simple, albeit powerful monument, dedicated to those affected by the Ustaše massacres

Located by a former concentration camp, Jasenovac, Croatia’s Stone Flower is a sobering monument built in memory of the victims of the Ustaše massacres of the Second World War. Countless Serbs, Jews, and Roma lost their lives at Jasenovac, which was run by the Ustaše regime that ruled Croatia at the time.

The concrete construction was designed by the architect Bogdan Bogdanović, and was, in his words, “made to represent the overcoming of suffering and insanity.”

Find a flight to nearby Zagreb

Delphi Ruins, Delphi, Greece

Even today there is still something mystical and inexplicable about the sanctuary of Delphi, located on Mount Parnassus
Even today there is still something mystical and inexplicable about the sanctuary of Delphi, located on Mount Parnassus

Delphi —  the ancient sanctuary on the south side of Mount Parnassus that was once the navel of Greece’s political decision-making. The revered Oracle of Delphi, once reigned supreme here. It is said that this oracle, (the Pythia) was a link between mankind and the spiritual world, the former of whom she spoke to in riddles, while belching hallucinogenic fumes that entranced and enlightened.

Today’s ruins reverberate with powerful echoes of Delphi at its pinnacle, standing robust against a backdrop of green. It is little wonder that the area is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Find a flight to nearby Athens

Franz Kafka’s Head, Prague, Czech Republic

Czech author Franz Kafka may be long gone but his legacy continues to shine on, thanks in part to this statue in Prague
Czech author Franz Kafka may be long gone but his legacy continues to shine on, thanks in part to this statue in Prague

Franz Kafka was one of Prague’s literary greats. A troubled soul who was tormented by depression and self-doubt for most of his adult life, Kafka was known as being a particularly mercurial character.

These traits are reflected in a multi-layered mirror structure in the form of a head, designed by the artist David Černý. Each of the 42 layers rotates individually, with the help of a gear system inspired by Prague’s famous astronomical clock, adding further dynamism to this shimmering gem.

Find a flight to Prague

The Mosaics of Paphos, Paphos, Cyprus

The Mosaics of Paphos hold riveting stories from the past
The Mosaics of Paphos hold riveting stories from the past

The Mosaics of Paphos are a tribute to the legendary lives led by some of the deities, heroes, and villains of Ancient Greece. Give yourself ample time to take in these vivid ancient works and their historical anecdotes.

While you’re in the area, explore the nearby village of Kouklia, where you will find the remains of the Temple of Aphrodite — the Olympian goddess of beauty, love, and procreation.

Find a flight to Paphos

The Cat House, Riga, Latvia

Riga's black cats glance haughtily at the city streets from their perches high above, as they have done for centuries
Riga’s black cats glance haughtily at the city streets from their perches high above, as they have done for centuries

Legend has it that in the 14th century Riga, getting into the Great Guild (a medieval association of craftsmen or merchants) was considered an honor. Getting snubbed, however, was monumentally insulting. One displeased Riga resident decided to voice his sentiments about it by placing two black cats on the top of his building.

The evil glare of the cats, staring down at the Guild below, provoked its members and a fight to have them removed ensued. Though they were turned to face another direction, the cats remain perched atop the building to this day. You will, however, find other versions of the cat story if you ask around.

Esch-sur-Sûre Castle, Luxembourg

The river Sûre meanders around the town and castle of Esch-sur-Sûre
The river Sûre meanders around the town and castle of Esch-sur-Sûre

The ruins of the Esch-sur-Sûre Castle watch over the eponymous town beneath them and echo with a fairy-tale aura. Dating back to 920, the castle was originally occupied by numerous counts. It later fell into the hands of commoners, who lived in it intermittently until the 1800s. Visit the ruins under the cover of darkness where a glinting sequence of illuminations gives them an other-worldly character.

Find a flight to Luxembourg

Popeye Village, Mellieħa, Malta

Popeye Village in Mellieħa - a colourful former movie set
Popeye Village in Mellieħa – a colourful former movie set

Robert Altman’s film Popeye from 1980 never got around to using this elaborately built set, whose constructions include a 249-foot breakwater that was built around Anchor’s Bay to protect it. The villagers of Mellieħa took matters into their own hands, however, transforming it into a theme park ‘for the young and young at heart.’ Take advantage of Mellieħa’s sandy beaches and striking nature while you’re in the north of the island.

Find a flight to Malta

Pyramid of Austerlitz, Woudenberg, Netherlands

The Pyramid of Austerlitz is a fusion of Egyptian and French French influences
The Pyramid of Austerlitz is a fusion of Egyptian and French French influences © Traveling Tourist

Styled after the Pyramid of Khufu, in Giza, Egypt, the original Pyramid of Austerlitz fell into a dilapidated state soon after its construction. Extensive restoration efforts in the 2000s fortified it significantly, however.

The French army were the original architects involved in building the pyramid in 1804. Two years later, it was named to commemorate Napoleon’s victory in the battle of Austerlitz.

A grassy, terraced pyramid will lead you up to the iconic obelisk atop.

Find a flight to Utrecht

Most SNP, Bratislava, Slovakia

The MOST SNP bridge is a Danube crossing you're not likely to forget for a while
The MOST SNP bridge is a Danube crossing you’re not likely to forget for a while © Ekatarina

The world’s longest single-pylon suspension bridge crosses the Danube with some verve. Completed in 1972, MOST SNP is famous for its flying-saucer shaped restaurant perched atop its pylon, a feature that has earned it the moniker, UFO bridge. ‘MOST SNP’ was the name originally given to the bridge in honor of a resistance movement against Nazi powers during the Second World War.

Find a flight to Bratislava

Bled Island and Castle, Bled, Slovenia

The emerald waters of Lake Bled are a magical experience
The emerald waters of Lake Bled are a magical experience

The entire region of Bled, at the northern tip of Slovenia, is, in itself, bewilderingly enchanting. At the heart of it, you’ll find Lake Bled —  a shimmering body of water nestled between mountains and thick woodland. Be sure to drop by Bled Castle — a towering construction built on a precipice on the lake shore and, if you can, row out to Bled Island in the middle of the lake. A stunning Gothic church awaits you here – ring its bells for good luck.

Find a flight to nearby Ljubljana
For more monumental European attractions, check out Part 1 of this series and while you’re at it, have a look at these great European city breaks

Originally published

9th May 2017