Europe attractions for an Engineer

I'm planning a 6 week trip to Europe next may-june (first time on places listed below). I've recently graduated as an Industrial/Mechanical Engineer and would like to consider some "engineering" attractions in my itinerary. Anything from modern to ancient, from a museum to a renowned production plant, or simply a significant infrastructure work, could be interesting for me (there are not so many things like this here at home). Places I'm planning to visit are: Italy: Rome, Florence, 5Terre, Venice Germany: Berlin, Munich (not sure yet) France: Paris, maybe Normandy (Dday beaches) UK: London Benelux: Bruges, Amsterdam
Switzerland: Berner Oberland, maybe Bern Any suggestion is welcome. Many tahnks in advance!

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
7431 posts

Since you're going to be in the Berner Oberland, the Jungfrau railway is considered an engineering marvel. It's a railway built inside a mountain top...constructed during the 1800s. For London an obvious choice would be the flood barrier: Also in London the transport museum might have some exhibits of interest. Paris the sewer tour. Amsterdam is currently constructing a new metro line under the city center. It's currently one of the most complex engineering projects in the world. There is a small museum about it at Centraal Station. Just walking around Amsterdam you'll see lots of old draw bridges, locks, and canals that will interest you. Finally, if you will be riding the chunnel train to/from Paris that's obviously an attraction....but you won't see much.

Posted by steven
white plains, ny, usa
1156 posts

Andres , I'm sure you will get lots of great suggestions so here are a few to start : Rome - The Pantheon , Coliseum Paris Eiffel Tower , Notre Dame - London Hammersmith Bridge ( Budapest Chain Bridge is a descendant of this one ) Berner Oberland - Jungfrau Railway . If you get to York UK , The National Railway Museum . Evidently , these are some of the best known , I'm sure more posters will be able to contribute much , much more !!

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
6098 posts

The Deutsches Museum has lots of interest to engineers--transport, vehicles, infrastructure, etc. In Venice, the MOSE floodgate project, partially completed, should be very interesting.

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
3036 posts

You have a good focus for deciding what to see. However, I think you are trying to cover too many places. Research these destinations with your engineering sites in mind, then narrow things down. You loose time and money every time you change locations. I think 3-4 major destinations with lots of good day trips and maybe 1 smaller/more rural stop for variety would be a better pace and save you some money on travel and accomodation expenses too. From my experience, I'd strongly consider the following: UL- London (and possilby York and Bath)- Roman eneineering works, the Tower of London and other castles, London Transport, modern buildings... France: similar to the UK plus the Eiffle Tower and the D-day stuff Benelux/Amsterdam- major water related things- windmills, dikes, etc and new things like houses built on water (NOT house boats- but REAL houses) It would be easy for you to fly into London, and use the Eurostar train to move to Paris then Amsterdam. If you wanted a 4th destination then I'd add
Italy- Rome espeically- all the historical stuff- catacombs, Roman 'stuff', Vatican city, etc. Switzerland and Germany are nice but I don't think you will find as much to interest you- plus they don't quite fit in as well for transportation.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
1742 posts

This doesn't really fit with where you are going but you can put the Pont du Gard on the list for next time. I am not an engineer, but it is absolutely fascinating to me that the Roman engineers could build this with the gradient of 1:3000.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
2736 posts

The Deutches Museum in Munich is great for an engineer. I've always been amazed at how good Europeans are at building inclined, curving bridges over extremely deep ravines. You'll see them in Italy, Austria and Switzerland. And if you're young and just out of college, don't bypass the bohemian city of Munich. Bypass Switzerland or Bruges to save time for Muchen. It's just a great place for young people.

Posted by Leslie
Atlanta, Georgia
407 posts

I'm a civil/structural/industrial engineering nerd myself. My mecca is southern France. Look up Millau Viaduct. It's one of those things that restores your faith in humanity.

Posted by Lee
1017 posts

Ditto Leslie. The Millau Viaduc is stunning and an amazing engineering and design achievement. I also agree with Pam. The Pont du Gard is not to be missed if you are in the South of France which is rich with the surviving works of the Roman engineers.
You've had lots of good suggestions. Of the places you'll visit, I'll add the Tube in London and St. Peter's in Rome.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
1076 posts

You will want to see Tower Bridge in London. It is a bascule and suspension bridge over the River Thames near the Tower of London. Be sure to see the Tower Bridge Exhibition, on the elevated walkway between the two towers. It's sort of a museum with the original blueprints and diagrams explaining the way the drawbridge operates. See the sections here, "Design" and "Hydraulic system": You will want to watch the drawbridge operate a few times.

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1671 posts

I think any cathedral anywhere is a model of engineering. In London, go to St. Paul's, how they did that dome is amazing. Also any bridge anywhere is also a marvel.

Posted by steven
white plains, ny, usa
1156 posts

@ Leslie and Tex , just looked up the Millau viaduct ,WOOOOOW !!!!!

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
1076 posts

This amazing 110 year old suspended train is the Wuppertal Schwebebahn
monorail in Wuppertal, Germany. It is supported by an A frame support system as it travels over the river, following the riverbed. It doesn't cross the river, it travels ontop the river, 39 feet above it. Constructed between 1897 and 1903, runs 39 ft above the river Wupper between Oberbarmen and Sonnborner Straße. Wuppertal is to the east of Berlin, but I assume you will have a car. If this is of interest to you, it would be worth the drive.

Posted by Leslie
Atlanta, Georgia
407 posts

Yep. It's one of those things that makes you understand how wonderful we are.

Posted by camille
point pleasant beach, nj, usa
482 posts

Sorry, do not have anything to add. But this is probably the most interesting question ever asked on the helpline. I know I've learned a few things. Happy travels.

Posted by Angela
Sammamish, WA
403 posts

Many obsessive engineers in my family. A few of our faves: Just outside Berlin, visit the Niederfinow Schiffshebewerk. This is a ship lift (elevator) on the Oder canal that raises boats 60 meters in one go. You can ride a tour boat through itvery very cool! Also near Berlin, in central Dresden, is the Volkswagen Transparent Factory. Look this one up on You Tube. You can book a tour, or wander through the main parts for free. The Technical Museum in Berlin is a nice complement to these, including a really interesting section on manufacturing techniques.
If you go to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower, be sure to take the "backstage tour." It's a bit difficult to book from the website, we had to get help from our hotel, but totally worth it. They take you down under one of the legs so you can see how the original water lift elevators work. There are giant, color coded gears that look like something imagined by Jules Verne. You also get to walk on the catwalks under the first deck so you can really see how the thing was built.

Posted by Dina
Fontainebleau, France
893 posts

I haven't seen the Galileo museum in Florence listed. The collection of ancient scientific tools, testing gizmos, and video screens with information in English that show how everything was actually used make it an engineer's paradise. Although at the same time, not being able to touch and play with anything make it an engineers hell at the same time! If you travel through France towards the Alsace region, there's a train and car museum in Mulhouse. I gotta admit engines/transportation aren't my thing (I'm a chemical engineer), but I agreed to a stop there for my engineer husband who loves those things. Even I was impressed. Never seen a steam engine car before, and could have tried to start a crank-started car if I'd wanted. Walk the stairs of the Eiffel tower (you can take the elevator up and walk down) to get a truly amazing perspective on the construction. And buy a bunch of Kinder Eggs while you're there and marvel at the genius of German engineering that has found a way to put toy airplanes, foot tall giraffes, and little spirographs into those little eggs.

Posted by Tom
Lewiston, NY
10496 posts

There's three tourist theme routes ("Fereinstraßen") devoted to the history of German industry- one in Bremen and Niedersachsen, one in the Ruhr/lower Rhine region, and one in the Rhine/Main region. You can tour a former coal mine in Genk, in eastern Belgium. There's a similar attraction somewhere in Germany between Montabaur and Bonn. You can see it while driving on the A3 autobahn, but I forget the exact location.

Posted by Philip
London, United Kingdom
2398 posts

Look into the Ruhr area of France around Essen/Dortmund/Duesseldorf. There are a lot of former coal/steel industry sites that are now museums and monuments. The absolute top is the Zeche Zollverein coal mine and coking plant near Essen. Some German is needed to get the best out of the attractions however -

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
3082 posts

Normandy in France at Arromanche. British-built piers/docks were floated to Normandy for landing supplies after D-Day. There's not much left of the docks, but a good museum describes how it was done. I'm no engineer, but was impressed with the genius of the enterprise.

Posted by Monte
Genesee, ID
1708 posts

I think the new train station in Liege is pretty darn impressive from an engineering and architectural point of view.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
4732 posts

In the Netherlands, you should try to take at least a day for Rotterdam. There's all kinds of interesting modern construction, including the Erasmus Bridge and the Cube Houses. The tourist office has a free brochure with an architecture walking tour (which doubles as a map; otherwise you have to buy a map), going to these and many more. For Brussels, I'll repeat my usual advice to try to take a tour with ARAU. Their focus is architecture, but there's lots of engineering involved too, and I see they have a tour specifically about building sites. I second (or third) the Deutsches Museum in Munich. I was most fascinated by how they make large sheets of flat glass ("float glass", floating the liquid glass on tin) and by how relatively new the process is. But you will easily need a full day for this place. Even if you don't plan to see anything else in Munich, with your interests, it's worth going for this museum. continued..

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
4732 posts

continued.. In Paris, the Metro in general will be very interesting (as will the tube in London, which is the world's oldest underground, and indeed the transit systems in other cities), but be sure to ride the newest line 14 (the driverless Meteor line). I'll put in another of my plugs for the Paris Museum of Counterfeits; this shows "engineering" put to bad (and sometimes downright sinister) use, as in fake car parts that have caused accidents and fatalities. I agree with the Pantheon in Rome (my brother was mesmerized by the engineering involved in this), along with the Colosseum. Venice will be fascinating all around (to see how a city built on water, hundreds of years ago, works in the 21st century). If you get to Milan, look at the Duomo, the Galleria, and the science museum (with wooden replicas of Leonardo da Vinci's inventions). I agree with the Transit Museum in London; if you get to York, be sure to see the train museum there. And yes, great question!

Posted by Andrés
Montevideo, Uruguay
37 posts

OMG you have been so generous, great tips from all of you! Many thanks! It's gonna take some time for me to carefully go through all of your comments and try to fit in some of these suggestions in my itinerary, but that will definitely be my pleasure. I really look forward for some more comments from others! Cheers

Posted by steven
white plains, ny, usa
1156 posts

Andres , While these two places are not on your radar, they are worth keeping in mind and certainly worth reading about , the engineering involved in both is spectacular : The Great Railway Bridge that passes over The Firth of Forth just outside Edinburgh , Scotland . and not far from there , The Falkirk Wheel Ship lift , also a brilliant concept !!

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
1186 posts

The engineering of the old sewers in Paris is fascinating, and not too smelly to inspect at Le Musée des Égouts (Paris Sewers Museum, in the actual sewers.) Although nearly everything in Paris seems to have its own webpage, I can't find one for this small museum. But here is an unofficial one: Note the odd closings on Thursday and Friday. I don't know how up-to-date the post is but it does include useful travel instructions and an unavoidable reference to Les Miserables. Gustav Eiffel was a great pioneer of engineering as architecture. Because he was prolific, the traveller can make sightings in many countries, including several churches (I consider his railway terminal in La Paz to be a cathedral of sorts) and at least one bridge in South America. Wikipedia has an interesting biography His English equivalent Isambard Kingdom Brunel was perhaps slighly less esthetic but still left a huge footprint with his aggressive railroad and bridge projects. The Clifton Suspension Bridge at Brisstol remains a thing of beauty.
This happens to be the 150th anniversary of the first passenger subway and London will be celebrating. Here is the Reuters report:

Posted by Irv
Beverly Hills, MI
470 posts

While you are in the Berner Oberland, don't forget the Schilthornbahn, is one of the longest aerial tramways in the world and needless to say the views are spectacular. In the south of France the Pont du Garde is an ancient Roman aquaduct that is only about a two hour drive from the Millau viaduct which is the highest bridge in the world. The Millau Viaduct is 1.6 miles long and the river it crosses is just shirt of 1000 feet below the bridge deck. ( It took them about 30 years to figure out how to build it) It is interesting to see the contrast of the oldest and the newest so close to each other. If you are into transportation, the Technical Museum in Speyer Germany has a spectacular collection of aircraft, trains, cars and trucks. Also the Schlumpf brothers museum in Mulhouse, France has great collection of very rare antique cars.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
894 posts

As a mech eng, you may be interested in the Science Museum which has trial models of Babbage's engines. You might also look at the IMechE website to see what its arrangements are for library/archive access for non members. Although not really mechanical, of engineering interest is the Monument. All above are London.

Posted by Janelle
Spokane, WA, USA
54 posts

If you go to Munich don't miss the BMW factory tour. It is an automation wonder. Small footprint plant, so you get to watch the robots weave in an out of each other's way. You see the entire process from stamping the body panels to final test and drive out of the factory. As an electrical engineer working in industrial plants, I found it fascinating.

Posted by Kathy
Germany, Germany
813 posts

Two fantastic museums/tours are the Porsche and Mercedes factories and their museums in Stuttgart, Germany. Porsche's factory has been on partial tour for a while, but it may have opened again completely recently (haven't checked since last summer). Mercedes factory tour is just incredible.

Posted by Ronald
Nottingham, United Kingdom
2 posts

Tower Bridge could be an interesting option along with the Tower of London, BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir and a few others I can't remember now.. But these are fascinating :)

Posted by Love to Travel
San Diego, CA
126 posts

if you'll be in Germany definitely check out one of the car factories. There's something about German Engineering...

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
12954 posts

I didn't notice your post when it first came out, but I'm an engineer and can tell you what interested me. I have to agree with several posts recommending the Deutsches Museum in Munich. The aviation exhibit is noteworthy for its Fokker Triplane, Messerschmidt, Germany's first jet fighter (WWII), and V1 and V2 missiles. There is also an F-104 made in Germany for the German Air Force. Other interesting exhibits include mining and bridge building. Plan for a day there. I spent a day and didn't see everything, but I saw about everything I wanted to see. Also very interesting, is the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen on Bodensee (Lake Constance). They have an interesting history on the development of the Zeppelins and some exhibits showing the intricate structure of the dirigibles. There is also a mockup of a passenger cabin on the Hindenburg.

Posted by Allen
Lafayette, LA
207 posts

I confess I have not read all the posts, but if no one mentioned the Radio Museum in Furth, Germany, it would be interesting for electrical engineers in the broadcasting field. It is not a very large museum, but it holds a nice collection of radio and TV receivers and old broadcast transmitters.

Posted by Andrés
Montevideo, Uruguay
37 posts

This topic has got so many good responses; I'm taking notes of every one. Thanks so much for your help! Hope I still get some more feedback :) Cheers