Alternative European Vacation Ideas

It can be easily argued that Europe is one of the best vacation destinations in the world. Whether you want to go sightseeing, hiking, or sailing, Europe has something for everyone. The downside of this overwhelming amount of activity options is the throng of tourists and large crowds that dominate Europe’s beautiful cities and countries.

Thankfully, Europe also promises a lot of alternatively-themed activities that can give the same culturally immersive experiences while you travel to the places you want to see. One of the main benefits of engaging in alternative activities through your Eurotrip is the opportunity to truly enjoy. Vacations should ideally be stress-free experiences, yet, participating in typical holiday activities can often be a source of stress. Long queues, crowds, the pressure to get that perfect Instagram shot amidst thousands of tourists trying to do the same — all these are factors that actually take away from your holiday rather than enhance it. Instead, keeping your vacation plans simple, relaxed, and unconventional can actually bring you the happiness you expect from a holiday. To get you started, here are some alternative activities to do on your European vacation:

A Food-Centric Adventure

Food can be a big part of traveling — if you want it to be. Exploring another country brings with it the opportunity to try things you would have never otherwise tried. 

A good way of getting an authentic experience in any city is by going to a local street market. From the Le Marché Raspail in Paris to the Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid or the Great Market Hall in Budapest there is no lack of local foodie-experiences in Europe. Street markets are famous for free samples and other free activities, ideal for travelers on a budget. What’s more, the food at most local markets promises to be ethnic and interesting, and the environment is the perfect place to interact with locals and get a feel for where you are. The more “local” the market, the less likely it is to be crowded. Be sure to solicit recommendations from locals on markets to visit rather than relying on guidebooks alone  — more often than not, guidebooks simply lead you to spots that have become tourist traps. 

Another way to involve food in your travels is to take a cooking course at your destination. This is one of the best ways to take something useful back from your vacation. Thorough cooking experiences typically involve everything from shopping for ingredients with your chef to learning about local cooking methods that result in pure deliciousness. Learn how to make pasta from scratch in Italy, delve into nuances of cheese-tasting in Switzerland, or if you favor a liquid diet,  go on an educational wine tour in France or beer tour in Belgium — when it comes to food and drink, there will always be plenty to do! 

A Relaxing Retreat

While a retreat isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Europe, the continent actually boasts some of the most exclusive retreats in the world. From detox retreats high up in the Austrian mountains to spa packages in coastal Portugal, a retreat could be just what you need to get away from it all. 

If you’re looking for something that involves more activity than simply getting massaged all day, consider a yoga retreat. Yoga retreats are a great way to reconnect with yourself alongside like-minded humans. And the best part? Everything is pre-planned, meaning you can simply book and show up!

A House-sitting Holiday 

So, maybe you won’t get to stay in a luxury hotel, but nothing is more authentic than living like a local — in their house— through the duration of your trip. A house-sitting vacation entails looking after someone’s home, pets, and garden while they themselves are away. 

This makes for a very different way of living while in another country. One of the perks of house-sitting is the locational advantages the house brings. When you stay in someone’s home, it will most likely be in a residential neighborhood. You will have access to local eateries, grocery shops, and many entertainment options to keep you busy. In this way, caring for another’s house can make you feel like a local even if just for a little while. 

Another advantage of a house-sitting vacation is the opportunity to truly relax in a homey setting, rather than an impersonal hotel room. Looking after someone’s house can feel like a “staycation”, even though you’re in a different country. This makes for a relaxing getaway which is uncomplicated and stress-free, with minimal planning required. In this way, house-sitting holidays can be a great way to unplug. House-sitting is especially popular in cities like Berlin, Rome, and Amsterdam, to name a few. 

A Volunteering Vacation

Okay, so you’re probably thinking, “who volunteers in Europe?!” In truth, even as a mostly developed continent, Europe has a need for volunteers, with many causes that need rallying. As stated on, volunteering opportunities in Europe range from working on a vineyard in France to championing social causes in the poorer parts of London. 

Additionally, many international organizations like Red Cross, Greenpeace, and Amnesty International are headquartered in Europe and could be a possible avenue for aspiring traveler-volunteers. If you’re looking for a more laid-back experience, Europe is home to many world-class events including Art Basel, Oktoberfest, country-specific film festivals, and more — all of which are happy to take in some free help! 


Besides being enjoyable, different ways of traveling can also mentally benefit you. Instead of having to chase all the crowded sights, you can take some time for yourself and have time to actually relax. So next time you’re in Europe consider these alternative activities to make your trip both memorable and fulfilling.