Ask LH: What Are The Best Tourist Attractions In Europe For Techies?

Ask LH: What Are The Best Tourist Attractions In Europe For Techies?

I am a 21 year old Robotics Engineering student who is heading over to Europe for the first time with a few mates (France, Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Austria and England.) While the classic tourist destinations would be nice to see, I am more interested in geeky/nerdy/sciency stuff. What destinations/attractions do you recommend that fit this category? The Wanderin’ Geek

Dear TWG,

Having never traveled to Europe, I am envious of your trip. But fortunately I can put this article straight into the research for my own eventual holiday.

In the meantime I will console myself with having sneakily touched a SR-71 when the security guard wasn’t looking, in America.

No doubt you are headed to Paris, in France, where you can check out the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie – the biggest science museum in Europe.

In Germany, trek to north Peenemünde to visit where the V1 and V2 rockets were invented. Alternatively, the Deutsches Museum in Munich has the world’s largest collection of science and technology.

In Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, there is a Computer Museum with equipment dating back to WWII. It also has a range of artifacts from the pre-computer era that were used for scientific research.

In Italy, the Museo Galileo has a huge collection of pioneering scientific instruments, as well as a selection that belonged to Galileo himself. If you are in Sicily and like volcanoes (who doesn’t), then take a trip out to the island of Stromboli.

Passing through Spain, check out the CosmoCaixia in Barcelona – a huge science and space museum. Another good port of call is the City of Arts and Sciences, in Valencia, which also has the largest aquarium in Europe, as well interactive science exhibits.

The Danish Museum of Science and Technology (Copenhagen) has 8000 square meters of everything from steam engine, to old inventions and even airplanes.

In Vienna, Austria, stop by the Technisches Museum Wien – a technical and science museum with everything from old planes to satellites.

In England your choices are many. Just walking around London you can spot all sorts of locations from geeky TV shows, such as Doctor Who. The London Science Museum is self explanatory (and has working steam engines), whilst the British Museum has more of a historical artifact bent.

Check out the Churchill War Rooms under London, ogle fossils on the Jurassic Coast, browse preserved (and often extinct) animals at the Grant Museum of Zoology or visit the resting place of Sir Isaac Newton – the Westminster Abbey.

If you extend your trip at all, swing by CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.

When further north, it’s always worth keeping an eye out for the Aurora Borealis. Sign up to the Auroa alert system to get some warning when the sky might be putting on a display.

Check out some more ideas at Wiki Voyage.

Do you have a favourite Geeky destination when travelling? Tell us in the comments.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • A few hours drive from London is Bletchley Park – the site where the ENIGMA code was cracked during World War 2, with work by Alan Turing. The museum there is quite fascinating, we visited just before The Imitation Game came out (which I still haven’t seen, but would like to…)

    Next door is also the UK’s National Museum of Computing, which has some great stuff but suffers from a lack of budget – it very much looks like it’s run entirely by volunteers and so things aren’t “pretty” as in Bletchley Park. Although it was still worth a visit for anyone interested in the history of computing.

    • We visited Bletchley on our last trip to the UK. It’s interesting and all, but mostly pitched at a historical slant so there’s not that much for the tech-minded.

      The computer museum mentioned is worth a visit for nothing other than to see a working reconstruction of the Bombe and some (still functional) Heath Robinson computers. Rather than just look, get chatting to the volunteers who are only too eager to explain and discuss the techy side of early computing.

      Another suggestion not far from these is the National Space Centre in Leicester. There’s plenty on the UK and ESA contributions to space exploration.

      If you’re in London, go to Greenwich Observatory. Partly to do the cliched standing on both hemispheres at once, but also since there’s plenty of stuff on the early discoveries of celestial bodies.

  • You won’t actually be able to see anything at CERN in Switzerland. They cater for school groups but not tourists. Unless you can somehow hitch a ride with a school group that’s going there on excursion…

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