35 Fascinating Myths and Legends from Europe

One of the reasons I love traveling is getting to know other cultures, and that includes local folktales. Europe boasts thousands of them, from mythical creatures and legendary battles to love stories and funny tales. I know this is not a typical post here, but I invite you to dive into these intriguing myths and legends from Europe.

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Fascinated by myths and legends from Europe? Here are European myths and legends you'll love to read.


MYTHS AND LEGENDS FROM EUROPE: EASTERN EUROPE AND THE BALKANS

THE FAIRY’S GATE, MONTENEGRO

By Elena from The Carry-On Chronicles

With over 2,000 years of history, Kotor is no stranger to interesting myths and legends.

In particular, The Legend of Fairy’s Gate harkens back to Kotor’s origins and its early colonization by the Greeks. This legend tells of a fairy named Alkima who blessed Kotor with a special offering of her gratitude.

Given Alkima’s respect for the sea and its significance, she encouraged ancient mariners to build their town by Boka Bay instead of on the giant hill atop Kotor. Obediently, the seafarers followed Alkima’s astute advice and were granted a special reward for doing so.

Summoning her mystical powers, Alkima erected a bridge to the high hill. The bridge – which resembles a town gate – was so named The Fairy’s Gate in her honor.

As legend has it, those deemed worthy by the fairy – mainly descendants of the ancient mariners and Kotor’s founders – are granted a special gift. At nightfall, the chosen ones can enjoy a beautiful vision of Alkima resting atop The Fairy’s Gate.

While this legend is certainly fascinating and heartwarming to read about, the best way to appreciate Kotor and its mythical aura is by hiking Kotor Fortress.

From the top, visitors will be handsomely rewarded with breathtaking views over Boka Bay, a testament to Alkima’s wisdom. Surely Alkima was a wise fairy to encourage a life by the sea!

Views from the Kotor Fortress hike in Montenegro
Views of Kotor. Photo: The Carry-On Chronicles

THE STONE WEDDING/THE PETRIFIED WEDDING, BULGARIA

In southern Bulgaria, there’s a unique stone formation called The Stone Wedding. Although it dates back millions of years ago, a local legend says that it all started with a wedding between two young people.

When the wind blew off the bride’s veil, all the guests were struck by her beauty, and the groom’s father felt jealous of his son.

Because of his impure thoughts, nature turned everyone into stone, except for the groom, who cried and begged to join his love. His wish was fulfilled, and the water that still appears in this place is believed to be his tears.

THE BLACK QUEEN FAIRY, CROATIA

The UNESCO-listed Plitvice Lakes are considered one of the most beautiful national parks in Europe, and the legend of how they were created will surely make you want to visit them even more.

It says that after a long, extreme drought, the entire area was completely dry, including the Black River.

The locals prayed and prayed for help, until one day, the Black Queen came down from her fairy palace to see what was going on.

As she saw the drought and heard people’s prayers, she made it rain so hard and for so long that the Black River was flowing again, creating lakes and waterfalls.

plitvice-lakes-national-park
Plitvice Lakes. Photo: Travel Melodies

LJUBLANA DRAGON, SLOVENIA

By Roxanne from Far Away Worlds

If you’ve ever traveled around Slovenia, you may have noticed several dragons in the capital city of Ljubljana. From the statues by Dragon Bridge to the dragon on the city’s coat of arms, Ljubljana takes pride in being the city of dragons.

According to the myth, Jason of the Argonauts (from Greece mythology) was the founder of Ljubljana.

After stealing the golden fleece, Jason and his companions sailed the Argo up the Danube and Sava until they reached Ljubljanica.

During their travels, they stopped at a large lake near the source of the Ljubljanica. A dragon was said to be living in the area and, when it appeared, Jason fought and killed it.

The city was founded on that spot and dragons have been associated with Ljubljana ever since.

Ljubljana dragon statue
Ljubljana’s Dragon. Photo: Far Away Worlds

KRALJ MATJAZ, SLOVENIA

By Dzangir from Dr Jam Travels

King Matjaž is a legendary king from Slovenia and neighboring countries.

His story dates from pre-Christian times. Later it was connected to Matthias Corvinus of Hungary in the 15th century. A century later, it was inspired by peasant revolt leader Matija Gubec.

This king was attributed with properties like a brave, fair, defender of the common people. He was the one that brought an age of prosperity.

Also, he was the winner in the war against the Turks. In one of the stories, he saves his wife Alenka from captivity in a Turkish jail.

The last story is about his conflict with God, so he is captured under mountain Peca, Caranthania (Slovenia). After his beard grows 9 times around the table, he will come out and rule justly, so poverty will disappear again.

Today, you’ll see a cave under the mountain bronze sculpture of King Matjaž, which tourists can visit.

DRACULA AND BRAN CASTLE, ROMANIA

By Anda from Travel for a While

One of the most popular legends of Europe is that of Count Dracula, the famous vampire from Transylvania, Romania.

Bram Stoker imagined the story after he read tales about the cruelty of a bloody Wallach leader, Vlad the Impaler.

However, he placed the castle of his character, Count Dracula, in a different setting that sounded more mysterious and fitting, Transylvania.

Fans (and marketing, to be honest) promoted the Bran Castle in Transylvania as the place where the infamous lord lived. The castle is built on a “rocky promontory” overlooking the valley, but that is where the similarities stop.

However, the legend of Dracula is what Bran Castle is most famous for to this day, despite it having little or nothing to do with the real story of Vlad the Impaler.

Bran Castle
Bran Castle. Photo: Travel for a While

SOYEMBIKA OF KAZAN, RUSSIA

By Luke from Culture Shock Adventure

Russia’s new Tzar has a new army, and he is hell-bent on violence and power. It’s time to conquer the old enemy. Awaiting in the distant, Tatar lands resides Söyembikä, the beautiful Queen of the Kazan Khanate.

In early autumn, 150,000 troops move on Kazan, showering the city with non-stop cannons in a bloody siege, killing over 60,000 Tatar soldiers and civilians.

42 days later, Kazan fell. The Tzar, Ivan the Terrible, can now claim his prize: Söyembikä’s hand in marriage.

She couldn’t say no, but she knew his ego. She accepted, but only if he built her Russia’s tallest tower in seven days. Ivan thrived in the challenge, and seven days later, Söyembikä’s fate was sealed.

Overlooking her crumbled city from her tower, and overwhelmed by the guilt and shame this marriage will bring her people, Söyembikä jumped, never to give in to her ruthless, egotistical husband-to-be.

ATHENA AND POSEIDON, GREECE

By Dymphe from Dym Abroad

In Ancient Greece, there was a contest to decide which god would control the city of Athens.

This contest took place in the Acropolis, which you should definitely visit when you are in the city, even if you only have one day in Athens!

Two gods were interested, namely the goddess Athena and the god Poseidon. The king of Athens asked the gods for a gift that would be of use to the people of Athens.

Poseidon created a saltwater well, which was not very useful for the city, but Athena provided more value because she created an olive tree.

The king of Athens chose Athena as the winner of the contest, Athens was named after her, and she got control of the city.

Acropolis
The Acropolis. Photo: Dym Abroad

JURATE AND KASTYTIS, LITHUANIA

By Katja from Travel n History

In the small Baltic country of Lithuania, one of the most popular Baltic folktales is of two lovers, Jūratė and Kastytis.

According to the tale, Jūratė is a sea goddess who lives in a palace on the ocean floor, made entirely of amber.

One day, Kastytis, a young Lithuanian fisherman, caught too many fish, which were Jūratė’s responsibility to protect, so she came to the shore to punish him.

But the moment she had set eyes on the mortal man, she fell in love. The two became lovers and spent many happy days together.

But when Perkūnas, the god of thunder, discovered their affair, he was furious – mortal and divine do not mingle (tell that to your Greek counterpart, Perkūnas).

So he struck the palace, killing Kastytis, and till this day, Jūratė cries in the ruins of her palace, and her tears wash ashore on the Lithuanian coastline as delicate amber.



EUROPEAN LEGENDS AND MYTHS: CENTRAL EUROPE

THE PRAGUE GOLEM, CZECH REPUBLIC

By Dagney from Dark Distractions

Mention of golems can be found throughout Jewish history and folklore, but the Prague Golem is by far the most famous.

During the 16th century, the anti-semitic sentiment was rampant throughout Prague, bolstered by Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor, who ruled the city at the time.

To protect the Prague Jews, Judah Loew ben Bezalel, a prominent rabbi within the city, fastened a golem out of clay. The golem began to cause chaos in Prague outside of the Jewish Quarter.

Once it was clear he would not stop without some change, the non-Jewish citizens of Prague implored Rabbi Loew to stop the golem, promising to do better for their Jewish neighbors. Having achieved the desired outcome, the rabbi destroyed the golem.

Today, you can find little golems throughout the Jewish quarter and shops named for him. Many bookshops in Prague also sell books about golems.

Prague from above
Prague. Photo: Dark Distractions

THE GIANT’S TABLE, SLOVAKIA

The imposing 4-tower Bratislava Castle has many myths and legends connected to it, and it doesn’t get more intriguing than the tale about the Giant’s Table.

While it has a few versions, it says that the castle’s residents woke up every morning to a complete mess and destruction.

An old witch was brought to figure out what had happened, and he said that a giant wizard, whose route passes along the castle, turned it upside down and used it as a table.

Using rocks, the locals “drew” the giant a map that would make him take a different path, which seemed to work because he never came back.

THE WONDEROUS STAG, HUNGARY

With a few similar versions, this tale is one of the most famous and important legends in Hungary.

When King Nimrod’s (Ancient Mesopotamia’s king) twins Hunor and Magor went for a day of hunting, they spotted a white stag.

As they chased him for days and days, it led them further and further to the west, to new lands of vast green scenery and rivers.

One morning, they saw a group of young women singing and dancing by the river banks, which led to them marrying two of them – the daughters of the local prince.

As they settled in this new land, Hunor’s descendants became the Huns, and Magor’s descendants became the Magyars, and their union is believed to be the birth of the Hungarian nation.

Budapest
Budapest

THE SWORDSMAN, POLAND

By Veronika from Travel Geekery

If you walk by the University in Wroclaw, Poland, you cannot miss the fountain right in front. A naked statue holding a sword adorns the middle of it.

Legend has it that the statue depicts its sculptor, Hugo Lederer. When he was a student, he liked to play cards with friends.

One evening, he lost all his money. It went so far that his peers even took his clothes, leaving him with just a sword, a symbol of honor.

The purpose of the “Szermierz” statue is to warn students to focus on their studies and not go astray. Students, though, nowadays use the fountain as a meeting spot.

What’s more, the removable sword keeps getting stolen. The city hall replaces it with a plastic copy about 20x per year!

Wroclaw hides many fascinating legends and stories, so if you haven’t visited yet, you absolutely should.

Wroclaw Swordsman
The Swordsman – without his sword. Photo: Travel Geekery

KRAMPUS, THE ALPINE REGION

By Bret & Mary from Green Global Travel

When I was growing up as a kid celebrating Christmas in North Georgia, ending up on Santa’s naughty list was a threat that could correct bad behavior in an instant.

But in the Alpine region of Europe, where those dark and mysterious Grimm fairy tales were born, the menacing specter of Krampus has been used to keep kids in line for centuries.

Krampus appears as a haunting half-goat half-demon creature with a hideous face, horns, fangs, and a long, pointed tongue.

Where jolly old St. Nicholas comes on Christmas to shower gifts upon the good little boys and girls, the European folklore of the Alpine countries suggests that Krampus comes to punish the naughty little ones in a variety of ways.

The horned devil’s special day, known as Krampusnacht (Krampus Night), comes on December 5, which is the night before the Feast of St. Nicholas.

While Santa Claus appears in the vestments of a Bishop and hands out gifts, Krampus presents the bad ones with coal, swats them with bundles of birch branches, and/or kidnaps them by stuffing them into a sack and taking them to Hell. 

If you see Krampus out and about, it’s a common custom to offer him some schnapps. He may not go away, but it gives you a MUCH better chance of being spared a swat from his branch!

ST. STEPHAN’S COCKEREL, AUSTRIA

No Vienna itinerary would be complete without one of Austria’s most significant landmarks, St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and this next legend is connected to the iron rooster sitting on top of its roof.

The story says that in the 15th century, Emperor Maximilian I had sent his Knight Kaspar von Schlezer to deliver a message to the Turkish Emperor.

After completing his mission, he was attacked and captured for several years, forcing his beloved wife to move on and marry another man.

As he had a vision of her upcoming wedding at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, he wanted to go back to Vienna at all costs. When the devil appeared, he offered to take him to Vienna on a rooster in exchange for his soul.

Kaspar agreed but managed to trick the devil and keep his soul. In homage to the rooster that brought him home, the iron figure was created.

St Stephens Cathedral
St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna

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THE FIGHTING BILLY GOATS, POLAND

The goats are a known symbol in the city of Poznan, but amongst the myths and legends of Europe, their story is not so famous.

The legend says that after the town hall’s clock was finished in the 16th century, there was a big feast to celebrate it.

When one of the cooks had burned some of the food, he stole two billy goats, which he wanted to roast and serve.

As they escaped and got up to the Town Hall Tower, the guests saw the two goats butting heads on the ledge of the tower.⁠

Today, every day at noon, you can see two mechanical goats coming out of that building, butting heads twelve times (just like a cuckoo clock). Not too far from the Town Hall, you can also see a metal statue of the two goats.

Poznan town hall
Can you spot the little goats coming out of Poznan’s town hall?

More about Poznan and Poland:



LEGENDS AND MYTHS OF EUROPE: NORTHERN EUROPE

KING ARTHUR, ENGLAND

By Kat from Wandering Bird

One of the most famous myths and legends in Europe (or certainly in the UK) is the story of King Arthur, Merlin, and the Knights of the Round Table.

The legend starts with a sword sealed into a stone (by the wise wizard Merlin), which was pulled free by the young boy Arthur- showing he was the rightful heir to the throne of England. 

There are various versions of the legend, many of which include a Queen called Guinevere, the castle Camelot, a sword called Excalibur (a gift from the Lady of the Lake), Lancelot, and other Knights, and even a quest to find the Holy Grail.

It’s widely accepted that very few of the ‘facts’ are true – the entire story was constructed by several ‘fanciful’ historians in the 12th century.

That said, one of my favorite things about this legend is you can actually visit the place Camelot is based upon – Tintagel Castle in Cornwall.

Here you can explore the castle ruins, enjoy the incredible views, and even venture into Merlin’s cave… if you dare.

Legends of Europe - King Arthur's Tintagel Castle
Tintagel Castle’s ruins and Merlin’s Cave. Photo: Wandering Bird

LOCH NESS, SCOTLAND

By Ilse from Digital Travel Couple

Loch Ness is a large, deep, freshwater lake in the Scottish Highlands, and it is believed by some people that it inhabits the Loch Ness Monster, also known as “Nessie”.

In 1934 the English Robert Kenneth Wilson, surgeon and gynecologist by profession, photographed the alleged creature.

This famous picture sparked an international sensation and people speculated that the creature was a plesiosaur – a marine reptile that went extinct about 65 million years ago.

So how was this credible? Many people started to visit the lake, contributing millions annually to Scotland’s economy.

Finally, in 2018, researchers collected a DNA survey of the water in Loch Ness to determine what organisms live in the lake.

The results indicated the presence of many eels and no signs of a plesiosaur or other large animal. This research made it very likely that the Loch Ness monster is actually a giant eel.

European legends - Loch Ness
Loch Ness. Photo: Czech the World

ELVES, ICELAND

By Rosie from Flying Fluskey

Iceland is full of European mythology stories. History comes from ancient sagas and the landscape is formed through these tales. Elves/Huldufólk (Hidden Folk) are ingrained in Icelandic culture.

Invisible to the human world, elves are said to exist alongside us, living in rocks and trees and exacting revenge on those who threaten them or their lands. “Don’t throw rocks, you might hit an elf!”

Years ago, a road construction moved a huge boulder, an elf church, and it’s said that subsequently, many people died in car accidents on that road. Elves were blamed, and as a result, some building projects can take a long time to finalize.

However, it is debated to what extent Icelanders truly believe in elves. Many take the view that it is part of their cultural heritage.

Others genuinely believe in Huldufólk. The rest think it is better not to totally deny their existence…just in case.

Iceland
Iceland. Photo: Meandering Wild

FAIRIES/CHANGELINGS, IRELAND

By Maria from Maptrekking

If you have ever traveled to Ireland, you might have encountered Irish folklore and superstition.

Even today, there are many people, regardless of age, who believe and follow unspoken rules and habits because of superstitions.

Folklore beliefs were strongly practiced up until the 20th century. When there were mischievous or ominous happenings, it was common to blame it on creatures called ‘fairies’ or ‘changelings’. This could be as simple as a cow not giving milk or unexplained death.

Oftentimes when there was an unexplained illness or deformity, many would believe that the fairies had taken away the healthy child or adult and left a fairy in its place. This sometimes led to torturing and even killing in the hopes of reversing the switch.

European myths - fairies in Ireland
A fairy door in Ireland. Photo: Maptrekking

THE FAIRY BRIDGE, ISLE OF MAN

By Larch from The Silver Nomad

If you are driving along the A5 road between Ballasalla and Castletown in the south of the Isle of Man, don’t forget to say hello to the fairies and fey people as you cross over Fairy Bridge.

It is a tradition for visitors and Manx people to greet the fairies to ward off any bad luck. If you are traveling on one of the local buses, there is a pre-recorded message to let you know you are getting close so you can say your hellos.

Some of the visitors to Fairy Bridge stop to leave notes, flowers, and teddy bears, hoping that some of the fairy magic comes their way.

However, this is not the original Fairy Bridge. The old Fairy Bridge is hidden away in the woods, and if you can find it, leave a gift or a note, but don’t leave without saying hello.

Myths of Europe - The Fairy Bridge - Isle of Man
The Isle of Man. Photo: The Silver Nomad

ROBIN HOOD, ENGLAND

By Steph from Book It Let’s Go!

Robin Hood was a heroic outlaw in English folklore, and according to legends, he was a skilled archer and swordsman, who along with his band of merry men, stole from the rich to give to the poor.

He also fought the oppression of corrupt authority figures like the infamous Sheriff of Nottingham.

The existence of Robin Hood is a fable as far as history knows, although there are references to historical figures with similar names dating back as far as the late 13th century.

Sherwood Forest is at the center of the legend of Robin Hood, and you can get familiar with the tale on any visit.

The story of Robin Hood is brought to life all year round with attractions in Nottingham dedicated to the myth including a weeklong festival at Sherwood Forest in honor of the icon and his merry men.

FINN MCCOOL, NORTHERN IRELAND

By Allon from It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor

Centered around the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, the legend of Finn McCool is of a local giant who lives in a cave on the coastline.

The story goes that Finn McCool built the famous basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway as stepping stones to Scotland, and challenged a Scottish Giant called Benandonner to cross the causeway to fight him.

When Benandonner came closer, Finn McCool realized the actual size of him, and so he scarpered home to hide with his wife. But Benandonner tracked down his house, only to find his wife alone with their baby, while Finn McCool was out hunting.

He was actually dressed as the baby, and, as Benandonner returned to Scotland, Finn McCool grabbed a huge piece of land (Lough Neagh) and threw it after Benandonner, which is now the Isle of Man. He then destroyed the causeway crossing.

Giants Causeway
Giant’s Causeway. Photo: It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor

HOLGAR DANSKE, DENMARK

By Derek and Mike from Everything Copenhagen

Deep in the bowels of Kronborg Castle lies a statue of an old man. He is asleep with his sword across his lap and a beard that runs down to the ground. This man is Holgar Danske. 

The legend of Holgar Danske surprisingly comes not from great Viking sagas, but from French epic poems.

He was known as Ogier the Dane in the Song of Roland and appeared in many other late Middle Ages works. He was first a foe of Charlemange, but later made peace and fought valiantly for the Frankish king.

The legend of Holgar Danske was fused into Danish history in stories written in the Renaissance era, and he grew to become a national symbol in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

His legend was used particularly to emphasize Danish identity against a dominant German culture, including operas and a short story from Hans Christian Anderson.

Today Holgar Danske rests under Kronborg Castle as the Danish sleeping hero, taking a rest until his country needs him to rise and defend Denmark from her enemies.

Kronborg Castle
Kronborg Castle. Photo: Everything Copenhagen

THE TOWER OF LONDON RAVENS, ENGLAND

By Lisa from One Epic Road Trip

Although I could write a whole post on the strange happenings in The Tower of London, what I think is one of the most interesting legends surrounding it, as it is still put into practice even today, just in case it was to come true and that is the Legend of the Ravens in the Tower.

Legend has it that if all the six resident ravens were to leave the fortress, the Tower, the Kingdom, and the Crown would fall, which is why they keep the seventh raven just in case.

This Legend is thought to date back as far as the reign of King Charles II in 1630 and has continued with the reigning British Monarchies ever since.

If you visit the Tower of London, you’ll see one or two of the seven famous ravens wandering the grounds. These magnificent birds only respond to the Raven Master and are looked after like they were royalty.

So, the next time you visit London, be sure to visit the Tower of London, and as well as coming face to face with one of the Ravens, you may very well come face to face with one of the ghosts in the Tower…

Tower of London
The Tower of London. Photo: The Globetrotter

Read more about London:



EUROPEAN MYTHS AND LEGENDS: WESTERN AND SOUTHERN EUROPE

BARCELOS ROOSTER, PORTUGAL

By Emily from Wander-Lush

The Legend of the Barcelos Rooster takes place in the city of Barcelos (northern Portugal) in the 15th century.

At the time, people were confined to their homes, afraid to go outside in the wake of an unsolved crime. A pilgrim arrives in Barcelos and unaware of the curfew, he is detained and sentenced to the gallows.

Protesting his innocence, the pilgrim demands to see the local judge, who is at home enjoying a banquet lunch.

The man points to a cooked rooster on the table, prophesying that it will come back to life and will let out a crow at the time of his execution as proof of his virtue.

On the day of the hanging, the rooster appears before the crowd as predicted, and the judge springs into action just in time to save the man’s life.

Today, the Rooster of Barcelos is an emblem for Portuguese amor da vida and is a ubiquitous symbol, brought to life in ceramic and embroidered onto linen to make traditional Portuguese souvenirs.

Rooster of Barcelos
The Barcelos Rooster. Photo: Portugal Things

SAINT GEORGE AND THE DRAGON, SPAIN

According to this legend originating in the town of Montblanc, Catalunya (Spain), a dragon had been terrorizing its residents. They wanted some peace and decided to randomly sacrifice one person each day to feed him.

When the princess’s name was drawn, a horseman suddenly showed up, stabbed and killed the dragon, and rescued her. In the spot where the dragon’s blood was pouring grew a bush of red roses.

Apart from a local festival called the Medieval Week of Saint George, this story is also represented inside Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Batlló in Barcelona.

LE DUE SORELLE, ITALY

By Ophelie from Limitless Secrets

In the region of Puglia in Southern Italy, the beautiful white sand beach close to Torre Dell’Orso will amaze you.

When you are here, if you look at the Adriatic Sea, you will notice two big rocks sitting close to each other in the middle of the turquoise blue waters.

These rocks are called “Le Due Sorelle”, which means “The Two Sisters”. Here is the tale that locals tell about this magical place.

Once upon a time, two sisters living in the area were fascinated by the view of the magnificent sea.

As the weather was hot in summer, one of them dived from the cliff into the water to refresh herself. But she started to drown, so her sister jumped off the cliff to rescue her.

Unfortunately, it was too late, and both of them died. Then the Gods decided to turn them into two beautiful sea stacks!

Le Due Sorelle rocks - Italy
Le Due Sorelle. Photo: Limitless Secrets

MANNEKEN PIS, BELGIUM

It’s quite odd that one of Brussels‘ most recognizable symbols is a statue of a little boy peeing. Today, it’s known as Manneken Pis, though it was once called Petit Julien. So what’s the story behind this unusual landmark?

There are several legends about this little boy, though one of the most famous says that it is the 2-year-old Duke Godfrey III of Leuven.

During a battle between his troops and the troops of the Berthouts, he was put in a basket on an oak tree to bring them luck and encourage them. He urinated on his enemies, who eventually lost the battle.

Other stories say that he put out a fire with his urine and saved the city from burning down, or that he was peeing on a witch’s house, who turned him into a statue as a punishment.

Fun fact: The statue is dressed on special occasions and festivities, and even has a museum dedicated to his collection of outfits.

LET THEM EAT CAKE, FRANCE

By Elisa from World in Paris

Marie-Antoinette’s quote ‘Let them eat cake’ is one of the most famous quotes in history. Marie Antoinette was the wife of Louis XVI and Queen of France between 1744 and 1792.

At some point around 1789, when she was told that the French people were hungry with no bread to eat, the Queen supposedly said, ‘Let them eat cake.’

But did Marie-Antoinette really say that?

According to all the historians, this is a legend attributed to account for her decreased popularity in France. While the peasants were starving, she had a lavish lifestyle in Versailles, organizing luxurious parties.

The truth is that even if there was a big gap between the Royal Family and the people in France, Marie-Antoinette cared about her people in her own way. Also, we can find similar versions of this quote years before she was born.

Versailles Palace
Versailles Palace. Photo: World in Paris

THE MIRACLE OF THE ROSES, PORTUGAL

By Jorge from Portugal Things

One of the best-known and most popular legends in Portugal is “The miracle of the Roses“. According to this legend, in 1288, Queen Elizabeth married King Denis, and she was a very kind queen.

Frequently, she gave bread and other supplies to the poor. King Denis was warned about this activity and wasn’t very happy about it. So one day he decides to check out if this allegation was true.

On a cold winter morning, the King, after noticing that Elizabeth carried something hidden in her lap, inquired the Queen – “What are you taking there?” And the queen replied – “Roses, my lord!” Suspicious, the king asks – “Roses? In January? How dare you lie to me?”

Queen Elizabeth, who was hiding bread, had to show what was on her lap and to the surprise of all, the bread she carried was transformed into beautiful winter roses.

The news of the transformation of bread into flowers, The miracle of the Roses, spread through the country and the Queen became Queen Saint Isabel.

More about Portugal:

SAINT PAUL AND THE VENOMOUS VIPER, MALTA

There are quite a few Maltese legends out there, including one that says that Malta is the lost city of Atlantis (mainly because it’s home to some of the oldest man-made structures in the world), but the most famous one has to be about Saint Paul and the Venomous Viper.

The story says that he was gathering wood to make a fire and was bit by a viper. Everyone around him thought the poison would kill him, but he had no apparent injury and didn’t suffer any harm.

Not only did the locals think of him as holy, but the legend says that from that day on, all the snakes in Malta became non-poisonous.

Malta
A fishing village in Malta

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ROMULUS AND REMO, ITALY

By Lisa from Travel Connect Experience

The most famous mythological tale in Italy is that of the founding of the city of Rome by the twin brothers Romulus and Remus.

The Latin poet Virgil tells how Aeneas, son of the goddess Venus and the Trojan Anchises, fled from Troy under siege by the Greeks and landed on the shores of Latium.

Here Aeneas married the daughter of the king of the Latins. His son Ascanius founded the city of Albalonga in the countryside southeast of what today is considered Rome.

One of Ascanio’s successors, Numitore, was ousted by his brother, who made Numitore’s daughter a priestess so that she could not have heirs.

The god Mars, however, fell in love with the girl and gave her twins, Romulus and Remus. The usurper ordered a servant to drown the newborns, but he instead entrusted them to the waters of the Tiber River in a basket.

The basket was stranded in a swamp between the hills of Campidoglio and Palatine, where today are the ruins of one of the most ancient monuments of Rome, the Roman Forum.

A she-wolf who had lost her cubs found them and nursed them until a couple of shepherds decided to adopt the twins. The she-wolf nursing the two babies is still the symbol of the city of Rome today.

Once grown up and strong, Romulus and Remus returned to Albalonga, killed the usurper, and put their grandfather Numitor back on the throne.

He invited them to establish a city near the place where they had grown up. Romulus and Remus could not agree on which hill to found the city on, so they clashed and Romulus won, becoming the first mythical king of Rome.

Roman forum in Rome
The Roman Forum. Photo: Travel Connect Experience

SELLA DEL DIAVOLO, ITALY (SARDINIA)

By Claudia from Strictly Sardinia

Sella del Diavolo – or Devil’s Saddle – is one of the main landmarks of Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia.

It’s a promontory that separates the two main urban beaches – Calamosca and Poetto – and which you can reach on an easy hike. Once at the top, the views of the city are impressive. 

According to legend, the Devil’s Saddle was formed after a fight for control of the region where Cagliari is located. The battle saw Lucifer, the Devil, fight against Archangel Gabriel.

During the battle in the skies above Cagliari Lucifer was kicked off his horse and the saddle fell, dropping in the waters and – once petrified – forming the promontory in the shape we know today.

The gulf in front of the Devil’s Saddle is called Golfo degli Angeli – Gulf of Angels.

THE BEAR AND THE STRAWBERRY TREE, SPAIN

By Nisha & Vasu from Le Monde, the Poetic Travels

The official symbol of Madrid is a bear standing on its two feet at a berry tree and looking up at the berries voraciously.

For the common man, the story begins at the famous Puerta del Sol in Madrid and is called The Bear and the Strawberry Tree.

The bear has been a part of Madrid’s protective shield since the 13th century when troops from Madrid were first seen carrying a flag showing a bear with the seven stars. Before this, only a bear was shown in a passant position.

With the change of bear and tree, they wanted to symbolize the resolution adopted by the municipality and the Beneficiaries regarding the control of Madrilenian pastures and trees.

Almost 20 tons in weight, this statue is a symbol of Madrid’s growth and represents the possession and importance of wood, which is essential to building a country.

Madrid bear statue
The Bear and the Strawberry Tree. Photo: Le Monde, the Poetic Travels

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About Or Amir

Hey, I'm Or! I'm a passionate traveler with a severe coffee, chocolate, and pastry addiction (or any other carb for that matter). Obsessed with anything Spain-related, I'm always planning my next trip (and the excitement alone can bring tears to my eyes, not that it's difficult to make me cry).

2 thoughts on “35 Fascinating Myths and Legends from Europe”

  1. It’s so interesting to read about all of those legends! It gives an extra dimension to the destinations we can visit! I will try to focus on that next time I do a trip 🙂

    Reply

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