Top Picks for Alternative Travel in Europe

Alternative Travel Guide for Europe


Courtesy Snail Trail Weavers
Courtesy Snail Trail Weavers

Of all the destinations to “go alternative,” Europe is it. Without too much effort, it’s easy to spend the entire summer making art, cooking, drinking wine, learning languages, volunteering and more! Whatever your passion, there’s an alternative for you in Europe!


  • Greek Arts
    Offering small-group tours that focus on learning about and making art in Greece, Artours in Greece has flexible itineraries allowing for maximum interaction with local artisans and unique trips to smaller, off-the-beaten-path galleries and sites. Tours are held in the off-season to maximize the intimate experience. Vineyard and wine-making tours are offered on some trips.
  • Spanish Arts
    Find week long workshops and excursions throughout southern Spain. Based in Seville, Granada, and other popular tourist locations, itineraries include both visits to galleries and sites of architectural interest and practical workshops in which participants can create their own artistic works–no matter their level. Workshops include tile-making and ceramics, as well as painting.
  • Welsh Weaving
    Learn spinning, dyeing and weaving techniques in residential or non-residential courses offered by Snail Trail Handweavers in Cardigan, Wales!

Other arts courses in Europe include:

  • The Abruzzi Mountain Art Workshop
    art lessons in Giverny
    Art lessons in Giverny, the French town where Monet famously lived and painted.

    Week-long workshops in various media 1 1/2 hours from Rome

  • ArtStudy Giverny
    Live and paint in Monet’s garden in Giverny, France! All instruction, lodgings and meals included!
  • Il Chiostro, Inc
    Cooking, painting, photography and writing workshops in Italy.


  • Pane, Vino e Lingua– Bread, Wine and Language in Italy
    The Koinè Language School and the wine restaurant, Enoteca de’ Giraldi, work together to provide students with two weeks of instruction in Italian cooking, language, wines, and culture — all in the heart of Florence or on day trips to Tuscan farms.Both companies are located in the Palazzo Borghese, one of the biggest palazzos in Florence, only 100 yards from the Duomo and the Palazzo Vecchio. The program is offered eight times a year, from March to October.
  • Friends and Food Go Together
    Friends and Food International, a member of the Slow Food Movement, offers unique culinary tours and learning opportunities in Provence and Tuscany. Connect the food to the culture and explore the real regional specialties in markets and classes and meals with locals. For more information on Slow Food International and the Slow Food Movement, see DON’T EAT SO FAST!
    MKHaskell@aol.comAnd if you count Julia Childs and Simone Beck as friends, then you won’t want to miss the opportunity to indulge in a week-long cooking retreat offered by Cooking With Friends at Julia’s former home in Provence. Hands-on cooking classes led by Childs’ former student Kathie Alex, visits to markets, cheese caves and butcher shops make cooking in Julia’s kitchen all that much more appealing. Special June programs take advantage of the long days in the south of France.

    Pizza Class in Italy
    A one-day pizza class in Italy.
  • Paco’s Tacos
    Get out those flamenco shoes and get ready to stay up late with Pata Negra’s week-long Spanish and Moorish culinary tours in Andalucia. Guided tours to vineyards, organic olive farms, markets and other excursions are combined with 5 days of hands-on instruction in Southern Spanish and North African cooking. Great meals, great culture and non-cooking partners are encouraged to attend!
  • World of Food
    The International Kitchen offers week-long cooking holidays throughout Europe. Learn with the top chefs, stay in wonderful inns and villas and explore the culture of Italy, France, England or Portugal with excursions and tours.Investigate the day-classes offered by such notable culinary institutions as Le Cordon Bleu and local hotels and cooking school. Inquire with the local tourist board regarding hotel and school classes.


  • Czech It Out
    Summer Prague University offers an intensive Czech language and culture course in the center of Prague. The program features morning and afternoon Czech lessons at all levels — both conversation and grammar — and frequent cultural activities, film screenings, pub evenings, and a weekend excursion to the Bohemian countryside.A real bargain, this summer’s month-long courses are set at $570 for all instruction and trips — accommodations will set you back another $200. Due to the program’s multinational participants and energetic staff, your learning is almost guaranteed to be fun.
  • Learn Any Language Anywhere
    Language Studies Abroad offers courses in language, arts, culture, cooking, sports and more in 20 countries, including Russia. Classes start weekly on Mondays and can last from one week to one year. Tuition includes accommodations in local homes.
  • Long Term Language
    CSA, Center For Study Abroad offers 4 or 8 week, summer-long language courses based at universities in Austria, France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Russia. College credit is given and tuition includes housing both in dorms and with families.
  • Spanish Steps
    Elemadrid, a Spanish language school in Madrid, offers Spanish language courses along with cultural excursions and opportunities to study Spanish art, dance and history in Madrid.
  • Swedish Summer
    Learn Swedish language, arts, drama, pop music, film, history and more at the Uppsala International Summer Session. 2,4,6 and 8 week courses include morning

    Language Course being taught in Europe
    Courses are offered in French, Spanish, Italian and many other languages depending on your travel plans.

    and afternoon sessions, fieldtrips and evening activities. Lodgings in single dorm rooms are included in tuition, as are most meals. Optional courses include cooking and trips to Finland and other regions.

  • EduVacate!
    Custom combine unique language, arts, cooking and sports EduVacations for the whole family in Europe. Go with a friend and you can each do something different: learn salsa or flamenco, cooking or golf. Being involved in an activity like cooking or sports is the best way to learn, and accommodations range from homestays to private apartments. Courses range from one week to however long you want, and begin at $900.

Other language and culture learning opportunities in Europe:

  • Spanish Abroad
    Language, culture, activities and excursions offered several times each month in Madrid, Malaga, Granada, Barcelona, Tenerife and other Spanish cities.
  • IS Aix-en-Provence
    French Language studies in the heart of Provence
  • Centro Internazionale Dante Alighieri
    Language, culture and cooking in Tuscany


  • Make a Difference in Europe
    Join Global Volunteers in Romania, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Poland and Spain on a short-term project. In Ireland, volunteers at the Centre for Reconciliation work on maintenance and other physical projects for two weeks, and learn valuable peace-building skills. In Romania, volunteers care for babies in over-worked hospitals or teach English. And on the island of Crete, volunteers are needed to teach English to students and adults.
  • Volunteer for Peace
    Vermont-based Volunteers for Peace runs workcamps in 47 countries — many in Eastern Europe — that allow volunteers to get involved in helping in a community overseas. Some projects are physically demanding, like a bird habitat reconstruction project in Bosnia, while others are more interpersonal, like assisting patients with special needs in a residential center in the Czech Republic or working with kids at a summer camp in Estonia. Most camps cost only $200 for two-three weeks, and the fee includes housing. Some meals are included, and in some cases, there may be a small additional fee to the host NGO in the country to cover expenses. Volunteers will work with other volunteers from at least four different countries, so the cross-cultural exchange is doubled! Special camps for teens, too!

    Construction volunteer
    Help rural communities by building much-needed infrastructure.
  • Watch the Earth
    Join Earthwatch on scientific expeditions throughout Europe this summer. Study Icelandic glaciers or Spanish dolphins, songbirds, seabirds, mammals and dinosaurs. Archaeological sites in Italy, Ireland, Spain and the UK are also in need of volunteers. Discovery Weekends are two-day programs designed to introduce volunteers to a region’s scientific and natural beauty, and collect data for specific projects. All volunteer program costs include food and housing.
  • La Sabranenque Restoration Projects
    Don’t let history fall apart! Volunteer with La Sabranenque to help restore medieval structures and monuments throughout France and Italy. Volunteers live in a medieval village near Avignon in Provence and learn traditional building techniques while exploring the area. Volunteer sessions run May through October. For more information see, TOP PROGRAMS FOR RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL IN EUROPE.

Other volunteer opportunities in Europe:

  • Union REMPART
    Join others interested in architecture and history in these 15-day historic monument restoration workcamps in France. The work is physically demanding, but the results are historic! The web site is in French, but English volunteers are encouraged to participate.
  • The National Trust
    Volunteers join “Working Vacations” — week-long, weekend or longer conservation and preservation projects at 140 sites the UK for only £51 per week!


  • Everybody’s Alternative!
    No matter your age or interests, there’s a hostel program for you! RoadScholar offers short-term, educational programs throughout Europe that give travelers and their families intensive opportunities to learn about history, art, culture, outdoor skills, or just about anything else, while enjoying the highlights of the destination. Many programs include airfare and all excursions, and all include housing and most meals. Get the catalogues to peruse through the hundreds of offerings.
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