Whatever your interests, you will find plenty to do in Europe. This section offers some suggestions.
There is a dazzling choice of things to do and see in Europe. For ideas and information on all countries, have a look at the European tourist destinations website.
The EU supports and contributes to many cultural projects and events across Europe every year. One of these is to designate a cultural capital of Europe. EU money helps to fund exhibitions and events highlighting the cultural heritage of the chosen cities and brings together a vast array of artists and performers from across the EU.
Guimarães in Portugal and Maribor in Slovenia share the title of European Capital of Culture in 2012, to be followed by Marseille in France and Kosice in Slovakia in 2013. The historic centre of Guimarães shows the evolution of the city from a medieval settlement into a modern town, with its gracious iron verandas, granite balconies and porches, turreted towers and narrow streets. Maribor, the second largest city in Slovenia, lies between the dark forests of the Pohorje Mountains and the lush vineyards of Styria on the banks of the river Drava. Only a short distance from Vienna or Venice, Maribor attracts many international visitors with its lively music and cultural scene.
Many sites of cultural and natural heritage are protected by UNESCO from historic city centres, cathedrals, churches, palaces and castles, to nature reserves, parks and gardens, Bronze Age burial sites and roman theatres. Have a look at the list of sites and find something to whet your appetite.
You could include in your itinerary one of the 25 European Destinations of Excellence for 2011. Visit Rokiškis Manor in Lithuania, built in 1801, with its splendid park, zoological garden and museum. Explore the Delphi region at the south-western spur of Mount Parnassus in the heart of Greece where the sea meets a jagged coastline, capes, islets and mountains. Or discover the endangered species and rare plants in the Nature Park in Faial, an island in the Azores Archipelago 1 500 km west of Portugal.
Throughout Europe on weekends in September, European Heritage Days allow access to thousands of rarely opened sites and unique events. Also on a heritage theme, you might want to visit some of the 2011 winners of the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards such as the ancient city of Messene founded in 369 BC in Greece, the Blue Lamb Granary in Gdansk, Poland, or the Hackfall woodland garden in North Yorkshire, United Kingdom. You could also visit the reconstructed Neues Museum in Berlin which won the EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture/Mies van der Rohe Award in 2011.
Sports fans will enjoy watching the 26 sports featuring in the Olympic Games taking place in London and around the UK from 27 July to 12 August 2012. The Paralympic Games which follow on 29 August and close on 9 September will see competition in 20 different sports. If football is more to your liking, UEFA Euro 2012 kicks off in Warsaw, Poland on 8 June 2012 with the final on 1 July 2012 in Kiev, Ukraine.
Denmark, a small country in northern Europe situated between the North and Baltic Seas, joined the EU in 1973 and assumes the EU Presidency in the first half of 2012. The peninsula of Jutland shares a short border with Germany and the rest of the country is made up of over 400 islands, of which about a fifth are inhabited. This gives Denmark thousands of kilometres of coastline and 5 000 km of sandy beaches; nowhere is much more than 50 km from the sea. The Danes came to prominence in the Viking Age between the 8th and 11th centuries but nowadays they are better known for their modern economy and extensive welfare system. Among the best-known Danes are the fairytale writer Hans Christian Andersen, the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, known as the father of existentialism, the designer Arne Jacobsen and the experimental film director Lars von Trier.
Cyprus, the largest island in the eastern Mediterranean, joined the EU in 2004 and takes over the EU Presidency in the second half of 2012. The many traces of successive civilizations: Neolithic settlements, Hellenistic period theatres, Mycenaean Greek pottery, numerous fortresses of the Middle Ages, Roman villas and frescos, as well as Byzantine churches, all bear witness to its strategic position at the crossroads of three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. The fertile plain of Messaoria lies between the Pentadactylos Mountains in the north and the Troodos Mountains in the centre and southwest. Tourism, craft exports and merchant shipping are the island’s main economic activities. By legend the birthplace of the ancient Greek goddess of love Aphrodite, Cyprus is also the birthplace of the poet and writer Costas Montis, the composer Marios Tokas and the film director Michael Cacoyiannis.
For further information on any EU country you are thinking of visiting, here are the websites of their official national tourist organisations.
The abbreviations for countries are those used on nationality plates on cars.