Leysin American School students are quite the European travelers by the time they graduate their senior year. With Cultural Trips (read more about this here) offered twice a year to various European cities and long weekends available for excursions, travel is an integral part of the curriculum at LAS. The 2015 LAS Valedictorian, Veronika R., is one of these experts and she's given us her top 10 destinations in Europe for a high school student. Let us know what you think!
I’ve never met a person who hasn’t absolutely adored this vibrant city. From quiet introverts to social butterflies, students will love Barcelona’s dynamic setting. For a lively experience, take a walk down La Barceloneta where you can enjoy an ice cream cone and observe the bustling locals. Cheer for your favorite football team at Camp Nou, or visit the famous La Boqueria. The energetic market offers everything from Spain’s notorious jamón iberico to an endless array of fresh produce. If you prefer a quieter atmosphere, relax in the serene Park Güel, or discover the magnificence of Gaudi’s architecture in his Casa Batlló.
Staying in Barcelona for almost a month last summer made me fall in love with the Spanish people and their culture. While there, I experienced an overwhelming feeling of warmth and tranquility. The charming locals are beyond hospitable. Young people in search of adventure will love Barcelona’s festive atmosphere, and the vibrant, passionate community will surely steal your heart away.
For popular tourism, Rome offers some of the most significant cultural sights in all of Europe. Go on a casual stroll in the Borghese Gardens, taking in the beautiful landscape and historical buildings. From breathtaking fountains to a sprawling villa, the destination is among the prettiest in the city. For an educational experience, students can observe the incredible Roman architecture at the Coliseum or the Pantheon.
Young people love dessert, and when in Rome, you’ll find the most delicious gelato in all of Italy. Stop into Grom ice cream shop and choose from dozens of their unique, delectable flavors. Don’t forget to try a cup of espresso and a world-class tiramisu, a perfect end-of-the-day treat in this ancient city. If you enjoy your time in Rome, toss a coin into the Fontana di Trevi. According to legend, this ensures you’ll return some day.
3. Lisbon and Peniche
Last year, I had the incredible opportunity to visit Portugal on an LAS cultural trip. We arrived in Lisbon in the morning and spent the entire day exploring the beautiful city. Visiting students will be fascinated by the famous grounds of the Castelo de Sao Jorge de Lisboa, a massive Medieval citadel. While in Lisbon, they can also visit Europe’s largest indoor aquarium, the Oceanario de Lisboa. Later on, enjoy your dinner while listening to Fado, Portugal’s urban folk music.
The highlight of my trip was not magnificent Lisbon, but the quaint northern city of Peniche. While visiting their picturesque beaches, I surfed for the first time in my life. It was the most enjoyable event of the trip. After a few lessons, I was able to finally conquer and ride a wave. Feeling the wind in my hair and joy in my soul, the simple activity made a memory to last a lifetime. Your time in Lisbon, and especially in Peniche, will be truly special.
Annecy is a small city north of the French Alps. Students who visit the lesser-known destination will never forget it. The city’s castle-like architecture, charming moats, and other Medieval embellishments will transport you back centuries to the times of King Arthur and the knights of the round table.
The majestic blue color of Lake Annecy is a sight to see, and the most avid of travelers love coming here for the great variety of water sports and activities. Come to Annecy for a weekend or even an entire week, and the clean, relaxing atmosphere is sure to make for a lovely time. Spend hours on the lake swimming, rowing, and sailing. Then, go hiking in the mountains or hand-glide across the gorgeous landscape. When my school takes its annual trip to Annecy, it’s one blissful adventure I refuse to miss!
Paris is the perfect destination for students at European schools, as its location is convenient for travel. To get to the center of Paris, it takes a little more than four hours by train from my boarding school in Switzerland, and just less than an hour by plane.
Young people are attracted to Paris, known as the “City of Lights,” for its vibrant nightlife. However, the phrase more appropriately refers to its rich history. When visiting the city, students will benefit from a number of educational experiences. Enjoy breathtaking views from the top of the Eiffel Tower, and discover the interesting architecture and spiritual ambiance of the Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris. For a break from the history lesson, shop at Champs Elysees for a variety of world-famous couture designs.
I went to Paris for the first time in my life at Christmas time. The twinkling lights and merry atmosphere of the city captured the perfect spirit of the holiday. I felt like I was in a classic movie.
In London, history, art, nature, fashion, and food blend together in a whirlwind of culture. Among all the cities on the list, this one leaves an unbelievable impression. I visited London for only one day about three years ago, but in that short time, I toured a number of famous marvels.
The close proximity of sights in London makes it great for a short trip. Students can take a tourist boat along the Thames River, observing the various iconic landmarks. Stop at the famous Big Ben, and make sure to get a glance at the elegant architecture of Westminster Abbey. Head down to the Convent Garden district, the main entertainment area of London. Here, you can do almost anything from shopping to eating to taking in an operatic performance.
Every year, Leysin American School organizes a trip to London for students who are interested in theater production. There, they can explore the profession from the inside out. Whether attending master classes, appearing in a show, or communicating with professional performers, London’s art scene offers valuable industry experience for young students.
Turin, Italy, may not enjoy the same worldwide popularity as other locations on the list, but it still boasts vast historical significance. Besides its theaters, churches, museums, and other landmarks, it’s a wonderful place for the senses. During my time in Turin, I discovered the delicious old-world offerings of its quaint breakfast cafes.
Before exploring the city, visiting students should wake up early and stop into one of the many traditional pastry shops Turin has to offer. Make sure to try an authentic Italian cannoli, a culinary specialty sure to be a highlight of the trip. At breakfast, chat with the friendly bakers and customers, gaining a glimpse into true Italian hospitality and culture. When my friend and I visited a local spot, we were touched when the friendly store owner refused to take our money, offering our pastries free of charge.
The warm, welcoming atmosphere permeates all of Italy. If you are looking for a pleasant, relaxing trip among breathtaking Renaissance masterpieces, Turin is the perfect place.
My junior year of high school, I was lucky enough to travel to Madrid with a language homestay study program. For students looking for an educational experience, traveling to a language’s country of origin is the best way to improve your comprehension. By the time I left Madrid, the constant exposure helped me immensely.
While working on your communication skills, Madrid offers great cultural experiences you cannot miss. Tour an exhibition at the Museo del Prado, a beautiful museum hosting a huge collection of European artwork. Students can then spend a relaxing afternoon at the Parque del Retiro seeing its lush gardens, peaceful lake, sculptures, and monuments.
In the city, make sure to try some authentic Spanish fare, such as a Churro con Chocolate. If you come to Madrid, catch a glimpse of the astounding 18th century Palacio Real, and at nighttime, take in the beautiful lights of the lively Plaza Mayor. It’s a magical city where you’ll learn a lot—and have fun while doing it.
9. St. Petersburg
June is the perfect month of the year to visit St. Petersburg. During the time of “white nights,” the city stays light well into the night, allowing for endless walks along the beautiful Neva River. Tourists linger far and wide to take in the majestic sights. If you’re lucky enough, you might even witness the bridge gates open as a massive ship passes through.
For students traveling to St. Petersburg, there are tons of historical sights to see. The Peterhof Palace, known as the “Russian Versailles,” is a sprawling property with lavish palaces, opulent architecture, ornate fountains, and other visual spectacles. Visitors can explore the gardens, take in the structures, and travel back in time to the reign of Peter the Great.
The city is truly a beauteous wonder. No trip to Russia is complete without attending a classical Russian ballet. Visit the Mariinsky Theater, and you’ll surely make memories to last a lifetime.
10. Dubrovnik, Croatia
For young people traveling to Dubrovnik, Croatia, the tourist spot’s exciting water sports are sure to be on the agenda. There, you can kayak around the walls of the city, go scuba diving, sailing, or simply enjoy a relaxing weekend—or week—on their world-renowned beaches.
On the spring cultural trip at LAS, I did all of these things, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. While scuba diving, I went as deep as 10 meters, discovering the deep-water coral reefs, sea stars, and other marine life.
From shopping and nightlife to sports and swim, Croatia offers great activities to entertain groups of young people. When considering your next school trip, remember the laid-back Renaissance charm of this Old World coastal city.