The history of Europe is one of culture and conflict. Although the continent has been peaceful for decades, it is shaped by battles of the past, from the Jacobite Rebellion to World War II. If you have even the slightest interest in history, you can’t miss the opportunity to explore the sites of these world-changing conflicts. Many were shocking, some almost unbelievable, but all were fascinating in their own way. Grab your chance to create your very own tour of Europe’s most significant battlefield sites starting with these five crucial locations.
The battle of Thermopylae has gone down in history as one of the most remarkable. So much so, it’s become something of a cultural icon with Star Trek, The Last Samurai and even South Park all making reference to this incredible event. The battle took place between 100,000 Persian invaders and only about 7,000 Greeks who stood their ground for three days in the hills over Thermopylae. The area itself is beautiful, with rugged green hills running down into calm Aegean waters. When you're in Thermopylae, make sure to explore some of the local culinary delights. You won’t be disappointed.
The last battle fought on British soil took place at Culloden near Inverness on the 16th April 1746. The Jacobite army, led by Bonnie Prince Charlie, were defeated that day, and the aftermath changed the way of life in the Scottish Highlands forever. It was this turbulent period which inspired Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books, and the hit TV series.
Hastings, East Sussex, England
1066 is one of the most famous dates in the English calendar - the battle for the throne! Fought by King Harold and Duke William of Normandy, it would be the battle that began the Norman conquest of England. Harold was killed during the battle and his death was immortalised in the world-famous Bayeux Tapestry. Every year at Battle Abbey the battle is recreated for fun.
The Ardennes Forest, Wallonia, Belgium
The aptly named ‘Battle of the Bulge’ which took place here represented the final major offensive of the German forces in World War II. Desperate German forces, in a last throw of the dice, attempted to split Allied lines in a surprise offensive that formed a ‘bulge’ in the front as the Wehrmacht punched through Allied defences. The battle lasted an entire month and has gone down in history as one of the most arduous of the European campaign. The site of the Ardennes offensive is now a spot for many to visit and commemorate soldiers lost in battle.
This battle took place at Waterloo in Belgium. At the time, however, the region was part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. The battle took place between the Napoleonic forces of France, the British forces led by the Duke of Wellington and 7 other nations. As history would have it, the Battle of Waterloo would become the final battle of the Napoleonic wars. It’s still possible to explore the site - especially the famous Lion’s Mound - today.
Battle of Stirling Bridge, Scotland
Braveheart fans rejoice! Though the Hollywood movie is not as historically sound as we’d like, the location of the Battle of Stirling Bridge still holds great historical significance. This battle took place during the First War for Scottish Independence between the forces of England and Scottish Independents led by William Wallace and Andrew Moray. The place itself captures the essence of Scotland perfectly - quiet with picturesque views. When you visit, make sure to explore the nearby castle and the famous Wallace monument.
To explore more beautiful, historic locations across Europe, you can created a fully customised trip using our online Adventure Planner! Make it a tour of history by visiting amazing locations like Berlin, Rome and many more.