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The 8 Best European Daytrips for History Buffs

Travel back in time on an enriching tour.

U.S. News & World Report

The 8 Best European Daytrips for History Buffs

Bath Abbey from the Roman Baths, Bath, Somerset, England

From a castle and wine-tasting tour in France's Loire Valley to a daytrip to the Roman baths and Stonehenge, we've pinpointed can't-miss expeditions for history lovers.(Getty Images)

If you're a history lover, much of Europe's art, architecture and cultural treasures offers the chance to immerse yourself in another time period. Instead of reading about pivotal, history-making events in a textbook, you can visit storied, centuries-old properties and attractions to retrace the past. And as you check out superlative museums, monuments and landmarks or tour ancient ruins, you can imagine what life might have been like in another era and brush up on historically significant events.

So, if you're aching to step back in time and discover landmark-rich destinations, there are plenty of worthwhile, history-filled daytrips to consider. Keep reading to start mapping out memorable excursions on your next trip across the pond.

A Pompeii Tour in Italy

Pompeii, the well-preserved city that was tragically buried by volcanic ash after an eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79, is a must-see for any history buff. What's left behind is a fascinating area highlighting how Etruscans lived long ago. Walk along stone streets and peer into standing homes and pubs, or marvel at one of Pompeii's famous death casts as you explore the area's ruins with a knowledgeable archaelologist. Reputable company Walks of Italy offers this tour with departures from Rome and other nearby towns.

An Excursion to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum From Krakow, Poland

This historic tour, offered through venerable tour operator Viator, offers a unique glimpse into World War II. Visit Auschwitz, the UNESCO-listed former Nazi concentration camp complex, and pay your respects. Afterward, make your way to the area's old prison blocks and crematoriums or retrace the stories of individual prisoners and explore memorials commemorating Holocaust victims and their families.

A Nero-Themed Tour in Rome

Operator Through Eternity Tours offers a glimpse into the past of Nero, an eccentric ruler and former emperor of Rome. Nero is well known for his over-the-top flamboyance, his complex political dealings and for murdering his own mother to seize power for himself. When much of Rome burnt down during his rule, Nero took advantage of the situation to build a mansion like no other – Nero's Golden House. This tour lets you walk within the walls of Nero's former home and watch a spectacular 3-D presentation to learn about how the palace looked thousands of years ago.

A Castles and Wine-Tasting Tour in France's Loire Valley

The Loire Valley is home to numerous castles with significant historical value. This tour, offered through operator City Wonders, takes you directly from Paris into this awe-inspiring region in the countryside packed with fairy tale-like castles and dramatic scenery. Visit Château de Chambord, the largest castle in the valley and Disney's inspiration for "Beauty and the Beast." Learn about the history of the castle as a mere hunting lodge, before spending time exploring the expertly maintained grounds yourself. Then, visit Château de Nitray, where you'll sit down for a delicious lunch, and have a moment to sample local white and red wines. Take a guided tour of the castle and grounds while learning about the tradition of winemaking in the area. Finally, stop at the famous Château de Chenonceau, which features original stone carvings and beautiful period furniture in its common rooms and bedrooms.

A Jewish Quarter and Anne Frank Walking Tour in Amsterdam

Learn more about World War II history and the life of Anne Frank on this walking tour through the Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam. Stops include the Jewish Historical Museum, a Portuguese synagogue and the Auschwitz Monument, and a resourceful guide accompanies tourgoers to teach the significance of each of these places. The two-hour walk through time ends at the home of Anne Frank, where you can pay a separate fee to discover what her life could have been like before she was taken to a northern Germany concentration camp. You can also learn about her diaries and how they came to be published by her father.

A Daytrip to Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Bath From London

This historic daytrip takes you to some of England's most historic and fascinating attractions. Start your journey at Windsor Castle, the home of the British Royal family. Tour the apartments and St. George's Chapel, where Henry VIII is buried alongside third wife Jane Seymour. After, you'll explore the famous rock formations of Stonehenge while pondering questions asked for thousands of years. How did the rocks get there? And, what do they mean? Your last stop brings you to elegant Bath, England, which is known for its Georgian architecture and Roman baths which were discovered in 836 B.C. and reinvented for therapeutic use. Visit the baths with a guided tour and take in panoramic views of the gorgeous English countryside.

An Athens Sightseeing Tour

This Athens half-day sightseeing tour, offered by Viator, takes visitors to Greece's prized national treasures. See the Greek Parliament and the Panathenaic Stadium, which held the first modern Olympic Games. Then, climb the ancient Acropolis to see the many buildings that crown the city in beauty and wonder, while hearing anecdotes and insightful commentary from your dedicated guide. Afterward, you can learn about the Parthenon and its adjacent buildings. Cap off your tour with a stop in Constitution Square and make your way to the Temple of Olympian Zeus.

A Colosseum Underground Tour in Rome

It's hard to imagine standing landmarks that serve more as greater historic markers than Rome's Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. After all, the Roman Empire once controlled much of Europe and large masses of land along the Mediterranean, and these monuments were at the center of it all. This tour, offered through City Wonders, takes you into the awe-inspiring underground area of the Roman Colosseum. You'll also walk near the arena floor, where you can experience what once served as a gladiator's point of view. After getting your history fix at the Colosseum, you'll enter the Roman Forum and learn about its significance. The tour ends on the Palatine Hill, where you can overlook the Forum and enjoy jaw-dropping views of Rome at nearly every angle.

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Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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