The world’s leading airports have become increasingly busier as more and more travelers try to beat the summertime rush to get to the airport as soon as possible.

It’s a common misconception that the only way to see Europe’s most beloved cities is to spend months on end logging miles. However, the recent trend of combining an expensive flight with a short stay in European cities has made it possible for most of us to visit some of Europe’s most iconic sights in a matter of days.

The beauty of European airports lies in their diversity. Whether you prefer a low-key, no-frills welcome like that of London Heathrow, or the bright, modern look of Amsterdam’s Schiphol—each airport has a unique personality. For instance, while some airports offer the best-in-class shopping, others promote international cuisine, while others offer top-notch entertainment.

It’s difficult to fathom a world without aircraft, therefore it’s hard to believe that aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright conducted the world’s first successful air flight little over a century ago in 1903. Travelers visiting Europe now, on the other hand, can’t fathom going any other way.

Many European tourists are also ardent aviation fans who like planes, airlines, and “everything that flies.” Fortunately, they’ll find a wide range of museums and attractions to satisfy their curiosity. 

Top Aviation Attractions

The Museum of Aeronautics and Astronautics is located outside of Madrid, Spain, near Cuatro Vientos Air Base (popularly called the Museo del Aire). What is there to see? Hundreds of aircraft, ranging from a 1910-built Vilanova Acedo to Spanish Air Force fighter planes, are on display. Travelers will learn about Spain’s aviation history as well as its aircraft manufacturing. Visitors will also learn about military technologies and weaponry produced in connection with military aircraft (such as missiles and torpedoes). United Vacations, Delta Vacations, and other businesses provide packages that give visitors the freedom to tour this aircraft museum on their own leisure.

Red Bull Hangar-7 in Salzburg, Austria, is unquestionably one of the most beautiful aircraft museums in the world. It is owned by Dietrich Mateschitz, the creator of Red Bull. It has the aerodynamic sensation of an airplane wing on the outside, but on the interior, it seems as if a “celestial vault” has opened over the vintage aircraft shown below.

The main structure, made of 380 tons of glass and 1,200 tons of steel, houses Red Bull’s fleet of Flying Bull stunt aircraft. A unique Cessna C337 Skymaster, a Boeing PT-17 Stearman, and numerous Alpha aircraft that fly at 600 mph that were purchased from the German air force are also on display. 

This facility also has several motorcycles and Formula 1 vehicles on exhibit for individuals with a “thirst for speed.”

The Polish Aviation Museum is located in Rakowice-Czyyny, one of Europe’s oldest airfields in Krakow, Poland. Visitors who want to witness Soviet-era planes may just look outdoors for Cold War airplanes. However, there is a sizable aircraft collection on the inside. The collection of unrestored pre-World War I aircraft antiques fascinates many aviation enthusiasts. Another benefit? The PZL M-15 Belphegor, a rare 1970s jet-powered biplane, is also on display at this Krakow museum.

Flying-High-European-Aviation-Attractions-Entice-Visitors

Varga Attila – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1991200 / Photo by Varga Attila – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1991200

Aviodrome Lelystad (south of the runway at Lelystad Airport) in the Netherlands has a collection of over 100 historic aircraft ranging from a replica of a Wright flyer to a decommissioned Boeing 747 and World War I aircraft. Travelers may even board a Douglas DC-3 and see the aircraft’s interior or practice flying in a simulator.

Visitors will witness both Fokker aircraft spanning the history of aviation from a 1910 Fokker Spin to a 1980s Fokker-100 commercial jet at Aviodrome Lelystad, which is not unexpected given its strong emphasis on Dutch aviation. Historic KLM aircraft, including Douglas, Boeing, and Lockheed planes, are also on exhibit.

The original 1928 terminal at Amsterdam’s Schiphol International Airport is a fascinating sight to behold. With its architecture and blackboard of flights, this old terminal, which has been dismantled and rebuilt, provides a taste of what air travel was like back in the day. Another attraction is the T2 hangar, where volunteers may be seen repairing planes on occasion.

One Country, Many Experiences

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LUFTWAFFEN MUSEUM RAF GATOW BERLIN GERMANY JUNE 2013 LUFTWAFFEN MUSEUM RAF GATOW BERLIN GERMANY JUNE 2013 LUFTWAFFEN MUSEUM RAF GATOW BERLIN GERMANY JUNE 2013 LUFTWAFFEN MUSEUM RAF GATOW BERLIN GERMANY CC BY-SA 2.0, uploaded by MainFrame, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28883603

Many European tour companies may create bespoke holidays based on the guest’s chosen subject or particular passion, such as aviation. Individual attraction tickets, on the other hand, are often required to be bought by the visitor either online or when they arrive at the attraction.

With this in mind, Avanti Destinations may organize a bespoke trip for aviation enthusiasts, for example. The Military History Museum at the Berlin-Gatow Airport, commonly known as the Luftwaffe Museum Berlin Gatow, Germany, is one of the numerous tourist attractions in Germany.

An Avanti spokesman informs Travel Agent, “Berlin boasts one of Germany’s numerous aircraft museums.” “World War I, World War II, and postwar history are all represented in the exhibits. Gatow, a former Luftwaffe and Royal Air Force airport, now houses the museum. Planes from past conflicts, NATO and Warsaw Pact nations, as well as anti-air, radar, and unmanned systems, are on display.”

Travelers may also join an Airbus Factory Tour in Hamburg, Germany, to observe how contemporary aircraft are built. The single-aisle A320neo or a widebody such as an A330 or A350 are available for viewing. 

Museums in Karlovac, Vukovar, and Zagreb also include aircraft exhibits. The Nikola Tesla Technical Museum in Zagreb, for example, has a collection of historic airplanes.

Outdoor Pleasures

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Aeropark in Budapest, Hungary / Photo by Christo – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52852667, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52852667

The Parco Tematico dell’Aviazione in Rimini, San Marino, is a mostly-outdoor aviation theme park with over 50 aircraft exhibited on a steep slope surrounded by vegetation; it’s a wonderful location for a walk. Indoors, uniforms, medals, souvenirs, and artifacts are on exhibit.  

Aeropark, a museum devoted to the history of Hungarian civil aviation, is located next to Terminal 2 at Ferenc Liszt International Airport in Budapest, Hungary. Almost every aircraft type operated by Malev, the now-defunct national airline, is on exhibit at this open-air aviation museum. Visitors will notice a Lisunov Li-2, for example.

Volandia, a park and museum at Milan-Malpensa International Airport in Italy, reopened on June 2 and has both indoor and outdoor aviation activities. Exhibits will include a variety of aircraft types, including fixed wing, rotary wing, space, drones, model aircraft, and more. Flight simulators, a planetarium, aircraft models, and a library are all available to Volandia’s visitors. 

More Attractions for Aviation

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A Supermarine Spitfire from World War II / Commons.wikimedia, Airwolfhound, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=106434178

The National Norwegian Aviation Museum in Bodo, Norway, is one of the biggest aviation museums in northern Europe, with a top collection of 40 well-displayed vintage aircraft and helicopters. It’s a hidden treasure for aviation buffs, with everything from a WWII-era Spitfire to a U-2 espionage aircraft on display. This is the spot to learn about Norway’s aviation history and how air travel brought the nation together.

Trans-ocean commercial flights were conducted by “flying boats”—basically aircraft that could land on water—in the early days of aviation, in the 1930s and 1940s. Pan-American Airways’ “Clippers,” as well as planes from the British Overseas Airways Corporation and American Export Airlines, took off or landed at Foynes, Ireland, providing frequent service to and from North America.

Visitors will find the Foynes Flying Boat & Maritime Museum, the world’s only such flying boat museum, situated along the Shannon River and near the Atlantic Ocean. Visitors could think they’ve headed “back in time” as they sit in a 1940s-aura theater to watch “Atlantic Conquest,” a short film compiled from original flying-boat footage. Visitors also can board the world’s only B314 flying boat replica; this type of aircraft had a 14-seat dining room, sleeping berths for all passengers, and even a honeymoon suite. Travelers also will delve into the back stories such as the crews for these flights and ground workers who were Foynes residents. Check out the uniforms, memorabilia and more. 

The Swedish Air Force Museum at the air base at Malmslaat, which depicts the evolution of military aircraft in Sweden, is one of several aviation attractions in Europe. The Danmarks Flymuseum in Skjern, Denmark, chronicles the history of Danish aviation as well as commercial and military aircraft manufacturing.

Visitors may also come across flying relics in beautiful surroundings. Egeskov Fortress, on Funen Island in Denmark, is a beautifully maintained Renaissance water castle that now houses a number of museums. A vintage car collection, an agricultural history collection, and, yes, an airplane collection are among them.

Because Switzerland has a well-connected transportation infrastructure, the Swiss Museum of Transport in Luzerne is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. They’ll witness a wide variety of transportation vehicles, including cars, trains, and dozens of vintage planes.

The National Romanian Aviation Museum, situated on the site of Romania’s first airport in Bucharest, Romania, has papers and artifacts from Aurel Vlaicu, Romania’s aviation pioneer, as well as Smaranda Bratescu, the world champion parachutist.

The Bulgarian Museum of Aviation, situated near the airport southeast of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, has about 7,000 items and 65 aircraft. A large collection of fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, gliders, and radio-relay stations will be visible to visitors.

Travelers will find aircraft, military uniforms, log books, model aircraft, and other relics while exploring the Malta Aviation Museum’s numerous hangars in the former air field at Takili, Malta. The museum’s primary emphasis is the 1940s and 1943s, and its “Air Battle of Malta Memorial Hangar” features a WWII-era Supermarine Spitfire MklX and a Hawker Hurricane Mk lla, the latter of which was discovered from the seabed in 1995 and fully repaired. It also has a deHavilland Tiger Moth that can fly.

Visitors may learn about Portuguese aviation at the Museu do Ar (or Air Museum) in Sintra, Portugal, where they can view antique aircraft, engines, simulators, propellers, and more, as well as a “Pioneers Room” dedicated to the remarkable achievements of Portuguese aviators.

Do you want to witness an Antonov An-24 from the Lithuanian Air Force, a MiG-21, and the world’s tiniest glider? Then go to the Lithuanian Aviation Museum in Kaunas, Lithuania, where you’ll find them, as well as a slew of other aircraft and flying machines, as well as scale models of airplanes, flyers, gliders, and helicopters.

When an aircraft museum is housed in a structure with its own history, visitors are in for a real treat. The Spilve Airport Museum in Riga, Latvia, is housed in Riga’s oldest airport, with one “plus” being the terminal’s passenger waiting area from Stalin’s time.

The Estonian Aviation Museum at Veskiog (not far from Tartu) began as a private collection in 2002 and currently has 32 aircraft representing aviation technology from Russia, the United States, Ukraine, Poland, Sweden, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, the Czech Republic, and other countries. The museum also includes six helicopters on exhibit, as well as anti-aircraft weapons and surface-to-air missile systems that were stationed in Estonia during the Soviet period.

Additional great alternatives for aviation enthusiasts in Europe include: Exploring aviation history and seeing vintage aircraft at this sample of other excellent choices for aviation buffs:

  • In Veromies, Vantaa, Finland, there is a Finnish Aviation Museum.
  • In Prague, Czech Republic, the Kbely Aviation Museum is located.
  • Kosice, Slovakia’s Aviation Museum
  • The Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History in Brussels, Belgium, houses the Brussels Air Museum.
  • Belgrade, Serbia’s Aeronautical Museum
  • In Soest, the Netherlands, there is a National Military Museum.
  • Iceland’s Aviation Museum is located at Akureyi Airport in Iceland.
  • Dekeleia – Tatoi Air Base – Hellenic Air Force Museum 

The list continues on and on… For additional information, see the national websites of each European country. 

Aerospace and Airships

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CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75114480 / Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen / Photo by Matti Blume – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75114480

Flying enthusiasts are drawn to more than just fixed-wing aircraft. Where can you learn about the history of airship travel? Or what about simulations of space travel?

The Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen in Germany is one such airship attraction. Travelers from Europe can discover a large library on the history of airship flight. The iconic LZ 129 Hindenburg, as well as a Maybach Zeppelin from 1938, are on exhibit.

The Zeppelin and Garrison Museum in Tonder, Denmark, highlights the area’s history. Tonder was the base for the German Imperial Navy’s Zeppelin airships during World War I.

On the aerospace side, those seeking to really “fly high” who are taking an Abercrombie & Kent “Tailor Made” journey in Europe can become an “astronaut for a day.” A&K’s “Insider Access” experience unfolds at Soesterberg, Netherlands, where Nancy Vermeulen, a commercial airline pilot-instructor who participated in 2008’s European Space Agency astronaut selection, will take travelers on an inspiring theoretical session in space travel

First, A&K’s travelers will learn about the history and future of space flight, followed by a lesson in spatial disorientation. Then it’s off to lunch, before the traveler boards the Desdemona Simulator to experience life as a real astronaut—imitating how it feels to be aboard a commercial spaceflight as a space tourist. Once the person “returns to Earth,” he or she will receive a certificate of completion.

The Technik Museum Speyer in Germany, Europe’s biggest space display, is a good choice for independent travelers. Look for the Space Shuttle BURAN, as well as planes, trains, fire trucks, bicycles, and other vehicles.

Finally, some websites showcase the brilliance of a single person in the area of aviation. The Dornier Museum in Friedrichshafen, Germany, for example, is devoted to Claude Dornier and his contributions to aviation and aerospace history.

There’s More to Come

Aero Park, a multi-purpose entertainment project and the first theme park built on an airport, is planned for Belgium and was announced in 2019. The indoor entertainment center at Aero Park will include a zeppelin, flight simulator, climbable control tower, interactive displays, and characters costumed as pilots, flight attendants, and air traffic controllers.

So, if you’re a fan of planes, helicopters, and aerospace, a trip to Europe is in order. Many of the museums listed above are already open, with others set to reopen shortly. For the most up-to-date information, visit their websites. However, now is an excellent time to consider indulging your aviation interest and “taking flight” to visit Europe’s fascinating aviation museums and attractions. 

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Lately, European airports have been opening new terminals, upgrading their transportation systems, and even designing some new airports. Several European cities have been adding new airports, such as London’s Heathrow, which added a new terminal in 2015, or Amsterdam’s Schiphol, which is currently undergoing a major expansion.. Read more about corona free tourist places and let us know what you think.

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