You can get far in experiencing the culture of a European destination through sightseeing tours led by passionate experts who either grew up in that particular place or have studied a great deal about it. Still, there's another way to interact with local people and become immersed in a culture during your travels.
Educational trips are no longer just for high school kids studying abroad. Adults traveling to any country in Europe can also take classes while on a trip. You'll come home with more than souvenirs. You'll have a life-long skill.
Join an archaeology team in Rome to learn about current excavations and techniques used to restore artifacts and the sites themselves. The archaeologists will have you in the dirt in no time at sites such as the ancient shopping malls, temples, and dwellings. If an actual dig is a bit too much for a vacation, an in-depth walk to explore underground excavations led by an archaeologist or graduate student (without any work involved) may be better suited.
Dance your heart out. In Vienna, waltz lessons are offered in advance of one of the many balls held during the season, such as the opera ball or the Imperial ball on New Year's Eve. Or try your hand (and feet) at flamenco in Spain. You'll dance to live music, learn principles of flamenco rhythms and musicality. You don't have to be an expert. Beginners are always welcome.
Perhaps you took ballet as a child, but your pli?s and tendues have gotten a little rusty over time. In Paris, hone your classical dance skills with professionals trained in France. Round out your lessons by attending a performance at the famed opera house.
You'll never miss getting a shot of the perfect travel moment after taking a photography workshop in Europe. Learn the skills necessary for capturing the light and feel of beautiful or interesting places, such as the hills of Tuscany, fields of flowers of Provence, or villas on Lake Como, which will be the subject of your course.
If the paint brush is your instrument of choice, share your vision of Europe on canvas by learning painting techniques from professional artists and teachers. Your instructor will introduce you to picturesque locales to paint, teach you about perspective, color mixing, light, composition and form as well as critique your work.
The best way to learn a language is to be immersed it in. But in some European destinations where English is widely spoken at tourist sites and in hotels, it's fairly easy to go days without needing to speak the local language. Take a language class during your trip to ensure you pick up more than a few foreign phrases by the time you return home.
Perfect your homemade pasta and sauces in Italy with group or private cooking classes with local chefs. Many classes begin with a trip to the local market to select ingredients for your dishes or visits to nearby farms to learn how local ingredients are grown. Your class will end with a dinner with your classmates and instructor.
Once you learn to cook the perfect dinner, take advantage of your time in Europe to learn wine tasting, how to distinguish between various wines by color, smell and taste with a sommelier or winemaker at a vineyard.
If taking classes is not to be the focal point of the trip, you can opt for half day or full day workshops as well as in-depth walking tours instead. However, for a more immersive experience, other courses are available cover many days or even weeks.