6 Tours That Go Inside Europe's Top Sites

by John Roberts

6 Tours That Go Inside Europe's Top Sites

by John Roberts

Nothing’s more frustrating than wasting your time in port waiting in exasperatingly long lines just to get tickets for historic and iconic sights you’ve been dying to see. By the time you arrive, you’re so frazzled that you don’t fully absorb the history and beauty of the museums, palaces, and castles you came to visit. So book your tour with one of these six European operators and waltz past the snaking lines like a VIP — then start savoring the experience.

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Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace / iStock / oversnap
Interior of the Colosseum
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1. Vatican Museums and the Coliseum

Port: Civitavecchia (Rome)

Sistine Chapel crowds are relentless, but Always Rome ensures that you’ll be craning your neck in wonder at Michelangelo’s ceiling shortly after you arrive at Vatican Square. This tour company also can fast-track you into the Coliseum to learn about the history of the gladiators and bloody battlefields that served as entertainment for emperors and citizens of ancient Rome.

Port: Civitavecchia (Rome)

Sistine Chapel crowds are relentless, but Always Rome ensures that you’ll be craning your neck in wonder at Michelangelo’s ceiling shortly after you arrive at Vatican Square. This tour company also can fast-track you into the Coliseum to learn about the history of the gladiators and bloody battlefields that served as entertainment for emperors and citizens of ancient Rome.

Observation area on the Eiffel Tower
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2. Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum

Port: Paris

When you find a guide through GetYourGuide (featuring local, English-speaking experts), you’ll earn exclusive access to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower, as well as shave more than an hour off the wait times. GetYourGuide operates in several European countries, and also offers a “Skip the Lines” tour that combines the Tower, the Louvre, and a sightseeing cruise on the Seine.

Port: Paris

When you find a guide through GetYourGuide (featuring local, English-speaking experts), you’ll earn exclusive access to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower, as well as shave more than an hour off the wait times. GetYourGuide operates in several European countries, and also offers a “Skip the Lines” tour that combines the Tower, the Louvre, and a sightseeing cruise on the Seine.

La Sagrada Familia
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3. Gaudí’s Sagrada Família

Port: Barcelona

Book Viator’s “Skip the Line: Best of Barcelona Tour” to secure a guide who will lead you past the masses waiting outside this massive unfinished neo-Gothic cathedral. Your intimate tour ventures to Montjuïc Hill (site of the 1992 Olympics) and includes a walk around Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter to marvel at the diverse architecture. But the highlight is special prompt access to the Gaudí-designed Sagrada Família church, and the free time to wander once you’re there.

Port: Barcelona

Book Viator’s “Skip the Line: Best of Barcelona Tour” to secure a guide who will lead you past the masses waiting outside this massive unfinished neo-Gothic cathedral. Your intimate tour ventures to Montjuïc Hill (site of the 1992 Olympics) and includes a walk around Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter to marvel at the diverse architecture. But the highlight is special prompt access to the Gaudí-designed Sagrada Família church, and the free time to wander once you’re there.

Michelangelo's David at the Galleria dell’Accademia
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4. Galleria dell’Accademia

Port: Livorno (Florence)

Choose Walks of Italy’s “Best of Florence: David and Duomo” for small-group access to Michelangelo’s “David” at the Galleria dell’Accademia. You’ll avoid the large crowds that line up to see this world-famous, 500-year-old masterpiece that depicts the hero — resplendently buff and in the buff — who slayed Goliath. The tour includes time to explore Florence as well as a visit to the Duomo, the city’s stunning main cathedral.

Port: Livorno (Florence)

Choose Walks of Italy’s “Best of Florence: David and Duomo” for small-group access to Michelangelo’s “David” at the Galleria dell’Accademia. You’ll avoid the large crowds that line up to see this world-famous, 500-year-old masterpiece that depicts the hero — resplendently buff and in the buff — who slayed Goliath. The tour includes time to explore Florence as well as a visit to the Duomo, the city’s stunning main cathedral.

The Hermitage
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5. The Hermitage

Port: St. Petersburg

This awe-inspiring, five-building gallery is home to more than 3 million works of art and other historically significant objects. You don’t want any delays to prevent you from viewing works by masters of the Italian Renaissance, including Botticelli. Saint Petersburg City Tours offers English-speaking guides, small groups (two to six people), and advance booking museum tickets that guarantee immediate entry and early access during the summer months.

Port: St. Petersburg

This awe-inspiring, five-building gallery is home to more than 3 million works of art and other historically significant objects. You don’t want any delays to prevent you from viewing works by masters of the Italian Renaissance, including Botticelli. Saint Petersburg City Tours offers English-speaking guides, small groups (two to six people), and advance booking museum tickets that guarantee immediate entry and early access during the summer months.

Buckingham Palace
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6. Buckingham Palace

Port: Southampton (London)

Queen Elizabeth’s London residence and office is open to visitors for just two months every year. With City Wonders, you get guaranteed, timed-ticket entry to the sprawling estate for a guided tour of the palace’s State Rooms. Displays might include the queen’s wedding dress, evening gowns, and Royal Family jewels. Afternoon high tea is included.

Port: Southampton (London)

Queen Elizabeth’s London residence and office is open to visitors for just two months every year. With City Wonders, you get guaranteed, timed-ticket entry to the sprawling estate for a guided tour of the palace’s State Rooms. Displays might include the queen’s wedding dress, evening gowns, and Royal Family jewels. Afternoon high tea is included.

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