When I was a kid, I used to look thru the National Geographic magazines and picture what it would be like to visit some of the faraway places that I saw on those pages. Many of those places that I dreamed of exploring were beautiful cities and small towns throughout the continent of Europe. Among the things that Europe is not in short supply of are beautiful cities with a rich history and enchanting small towns that look like they come right out of storybooks. Throw a dart at a map of Europe and chances are that you will hit one. Better yet, make sure you follow this series of articles as I am going to countdown the 50 Top Destinations in Europe to Visit.
Truth be told, there are so many fantastic cities and small towns in Europe that I could write a Top 200 list and still not cover them all. However, for this countdown I am going to focus on the 50 Top Destinations in Europe that I am enamored with. If you feel like there are cities and towns that I have left off my list that would be in your Top 50, I would love to hear from you in the comments. More importantly, I am sure that other readers would love to hear from you as well.
|The Top 50 Cities in Europe to Visit (41-50)|
|The Top 50 Cities in Europe to Visit (31-40)|
|The Top 50 Cities in Europe to Visit (21-30)|
|The Top 50 Cities in Europe to Visit (11-20)|
|The Top 50 Cities in Europe to Visit (1-10)|
One thing that you seemingly never have to worry about when visiting Norway is finding something amazing to see or do. That may seem like hyperbole, but I kid you not. The country is absolutely gorgeous and nearly everywhere you turn there is a beautiful landscape to explore or a new experience to be had. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that there are multiple cities in Norway on my list of the top destinations in Europe to visit. The city of Ålesund is certainly no exception. Spread out over seven different islands that are mostly connected by tunnels in the Møre og Romsdal county of Norway, Ålesund is one of the more beautiful coastal cities that you will find in this world.
In addition to enjoying stunning landscapes like Trollstigen and Geirangerfjord, visitors can drive the Atlantic Ocean Road, which is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful road trips in the world. When you get tired of looking at beautiful scenery (if that ever happens), you can also spend some time exploring the city itself. Ålesund’s Art Nouveau district is famous for its breathtaking architecture and is definitely worth a visit. I’d also recommend taking a Walk up to Fjellstua, which is a popular viewpoint that overlooks the city. If the view from there doesn’t capture your heart, than nothing will. Last but not least, you can’t leave Ålesund without getting out on the water to see the fjords. Along with those in New Zealand and Alaska, they are some of the most stunning in the world.
One of my hopes in creating this list of the top destinations in Europe to visit is to introduce you to some cities that you may not have heard of. One such city that I am guessing some of you may not have on your current bucket list of places to visit is the incredible city of Bydgoszcz in Poland. The fact that its name contains nine letters, but only one of them is a vowel, isn’t the only thing unique and interesting about the city. After learning about some of the fun and unique things that this incredible city has to offer, I am guessing that many of you will be adding this Polish city of your list of places you’d like to see.
With a history that dates all the way back to 1238, Bydgoszcz is the largest city in Poland’s Pomerania Province. While the Germans did destroy much of the city during the second World War, some of the city’s beautiful, old architecture still stands today in the Stary Rynek (old town square) waiting for you to explore. The city is also just a short train ride away from the cities of Poznan and Torun, which can be combined into a fabulous tour of Central Poland. However, what really makes Bydgoszcz such an intriguing travel destination is its Brda River canal. Nicknamed the “Venice of Poland”, the canal in Bydgoszcz is absolutely breathtaking. An sunset boat ride down the canal will make you fall in love with the city in an instant.
Although it is often over-shadowed by Barcelona, its glamorous neighbor to the North, the city of Madrid is an equally amazing city to visit in every way. Geographically located in the center of Spain, the city of Madrid is the heart and soul of the country. With an unique blend of history and modernism, the city will keep you on your toes as you navigate from one part of the city to the next. Every year, Madrid attracts millions of visitors from around the world who travel to experience the beautiful architecture, delicious food, and spectacular night life. Whether you are a foodie, a museum buff, or just a vagabond looking to explore new things, Madrid is one city that really has something for everyone to enjoy.
For those of you who love museums, the renown Museo Nacional del Prado and National Archaeological Museum will be the highlights of your visit. If you like to people watch, the taking a stroll thru the breathtaking Puerta del Sol and El Retiro Park, or down the bustling Gran Vía to do some shopping will make your heart content. There are so many wonderful restaurants and cafes to try and shops to explore that you could spend a month just shopping and eating your way across Madrid. However, my favorite part about visiting Madrid is all of the iconic landmarks there are to see. With wonderful landmarks like the Royal Palace of Madrid, Catedral de la Almudena, Palacio de Cristal, and Puerta de Alcalá to see and photograph, Madrid is a city that every travel photographer will love. These are just some of the many reasons why Madrid made my list of the top destinations in Europe to visit.
|The Ultimate Madrid, Spain Travel Guide|
Another European country that has multiple cities on my list of the top destinations in Europe to visit is the beautiful country of Ireland. While Dublin rightfully gets a lot of attention for its beautiful old buildings, wealth of stunningly beautiful cathedrals, and lively pubs, there is plenty to explore in Ireland outside of the capital city. One of my favorite spots to visit is the city of Cork, which is located on the far southern coast of Ireland. While it was founded as a maritime hub, the city of Cork has since blossomed into a cosmopolitan city that is ideally located near some of Ireland’s most treasured tourist attractions.
If you love castles, then you won’t want to miss a stop at Blarney Castle during your visit to Cork. Legendary for its limestone battlement named the “Blarney Stone” that tourists can kiss to be rewarded with the “gift of gab”, the castle attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. Located just a short drive from Cork, the castle is an easy day-trip for those who are interested. Visitors to Cork are also very close to the Ring of Kerry, which is another iconic Irish attraction for visitors wanting to see some of the more stunning landscapes in Ireland. The Ross Castle, Torc Waterfall, the Gap of Dunloe, and the Kilarney National Park are just some of the many wonderful places you can visit on this epic looped road trip. The city of Cork is just a short 1.5-hour drive from the city of Kenmare, which sits on the Ring of Kerry.
However, my favorite thing to do near the city of Cork is golf on one of Ireland’s most iconic links-style golf courses. The Old Head Golf Links in nearby Kinsale is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful golf courses I have ever golfed in my life. That is saying something as I have golfed on many of this world’s most beautiful courses. With virtually every hole located on the ocean, there isn’t a hole that doesn’t have a beautiful view for you to enjoy. It is also one of the more difficult courses you will find in the country of Ireland, so make sure you brush up on your links game before golfing a round at Old Head.
No list of the top destinations in Europe to visit would be complete without the amazing city of Athens, Greece. Steeped in history, it is one of the oldest cities in Europe and one of the busiest and most popular destinations in Greece. Even though it was founded all the way back in 508 BC and has one of the largest collections of Greek artifacts in the world, the city of Athens isn’t just a history buff’s paradise. In addition to its wealth of history, the city’s incredible street art, wonderful cuisine, and colorful neighborhoods make Athens a wonderful place to visit. However, touring the city’s iconic Greek ruins and and temples is undoubtedly the number one draw for tourists visiting this legendary city.
In addition to the quintessential tourist sites such as the Parthenon, Acropolis, Ancient Agora, and the Temple of Olympian Zeus, there is plenty more to explore in Athens. The city also has a wealth of amazing museums, churches, and parks for visitors to explore. Because most of the international flights into Greece fly into Athens, it is the perfect place to start and end any adventure in Greece. However, with so much fascinating history to explore and culture to absorb, I would definitely recommend staying for a bit instead of just passing thru on your way to the Greek Islands.
The next city on my list of the top destinations in Europe to visit is a breathtaking medieval city that is tucked into the coast of the beautiful Baltic Sea. Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is an amazing old city with a wealth of history that dates back to the 13th century. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, tourists have been flocking to Tallinn because of the beauty of the city and the affordable cost of getting there. Not only that, but the city is extremely tech-centric and is leading the way in tourist innovations such as e-residency. This has made it a favorite amongst digital nomads looking to explore Eastern Europe.
If you decide to visit Tallinn, you must be sure to tour the historical center of the city, which is one of the most beautiful in Eastern Europe. With beautiful old buildings such as the Tallinn Town Hall, the incredible Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, and the beautiful Saint Mary’s Cathedral, you will fall in love with the city on your first visit. However, the city has much more to offer than just its beautiful architecture. With wonderful museums like the Estonian Maritime Museum, the Estonian Open Air Museum, and the breathtakingly beautiful Kadriorg Art Museum, there is much for museum buffs to explore in the city as well.
One of my favorite parts about Tallinn is its close proximity to Finland. In fact, there is a regular ferry service that runs between Helsinki and Tallinn, making it very easy to combine a visit to both Estonia and Finland in one trip. So for those of you who like to knock multiple countries off of your bucket list in one trip, I can think of few trips better than seeing one of Eastern Europe’s most beautiful cities and one of the most beautiful Nordic countries in Europe in one trip.
Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union, more-and-more travelers have been venturing into Baltic Region to start exploring the beautiful and culturally rich countries in Eastern Europe. One of the prettiest of these cities is Riga, which is the capital city of Latvia and the largest city in the Baltic States. With its art nouveau buildings with colorful facades, beautiful parks, and cozy restaurants and cafes around every corner, the beautiful old town of Riga will make you feel at home the instant you arrive. No other city in Europe has a larger collection of beautiful art nouveau buildings. So if you are a fan of architecture or just love to look at unique and beautiful buildings, then you will love the city of Riga. One of the most beautiful examples of the amazing architecture in Riga is the infamous House of the Black Heads, pictured above. The intricate detail in the architecture is amazing and indicative of the beauty you will find in Old Town Riga.
However, the city of Riga isn’t only famous for its beautiful architecture. The city is also home to one of Europe’s largest and oldest central markets. The Riga Market, which is held in several converted Zeppelin hangers, has five different food pavilions that each offer a different assortment of fresh food and produce. The city also has a wealth of beautiful parks to explore, including the popular Vermanes Gardens. With so much beautiful green areas, it is easy to see why walking and bicycling are so popular in Riga. Of course, no trip to Riga would be complete without enjoying the rich culture of the city as well. With the renown Latvian National Opera, Latvian National Museum of Art, and the popular Museum of Art Nouveau, among other, being located in Riga, there is plenty for travelers who enjoy the arts to do. These are just some of the many reasons why the beautiful city of Riga, Latvia has a place on my list of the 50 Top Destinations in Europe to Visit.
There are a lot of beautiful areas that are represented on my list of the 50 Top Destinations in Europe to Visit, but one of the most stunning of them all is undoubtedly the quaint village of Geirangerfjord in the country of Norway. Located in the Sunnmøre region of the Møre og Romsdal province in western Norway, the village sits at the end of the infamous Geirangerfjord, which is arguably Norway’s most breathtakingly beautiful fjords. Registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 2005, the village is regularly voted as the top destination to visit in Scandinavia. If you are into outdoor adventure or landscape photography, than this destination should be near the top of your travel bucket list.
In the Geirangerfjord area, it would seem, the number of amazing things to see and do is only limited by the amount of time that you have and your thirst for exploration. In addition to taking a cruise thru the gorgeous fjord, there are plenty of incredible hiking trails to explore in the area. Some of the popular hiking destinations include the infamous Seven Sister’s Waterfall and the Ornesvigen and Flydalsjuvet Viewpoints. The world-renown Seven Sister’s Waterfall alone is a good reason to add Geirangerfjord to your bucket list, but really the whole area is beyond words beautiful. There are few destinations in Europe with so much raw natural beauty, which is why Geirangerfjord is on my list of the top destinations to visit on the continent.
For those familiar with Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the beautiful ancient city of Brasov in Romania’s Transylvania region will look familiar. After all, it is just a stone’s throw away from the Dracula’s castle (which wasn’t really his castle at all, but more on that in a bit). Even though the city itself is ancient, it is one of Eastern Europe’s best preserved cities. Its medieval stone walls and black and white towers may look ancient, they are very well preserved and add to the allure of this interesting city. In addition to being very old and beautiful, Brasov is also one of the most fun cities to visit in Eastern Europe. It has a great selection of fun bars and restaurants, a stunningly beautiful town square, and is very close to a wide array of attractions that you can visit.
One of the most popular things to do in Brasov includes visiting the castle that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. As I said before, it isn’t really Dracula’s Castle, but it did inspire the story. The city has made the castle a fun and popular tourist destination, with an elevator that you can ride to the top to experience “Dracula’s Escape Route”. When you have had your fill of all things Dracula, I would suggest checking out some of the area’s other popular historical sites. The Rasnov Fortress, Peles Castle, Catherine’s Gate, and the Saint Nicholas Basilica are all popular attractions that are worthy of exploring. And if you are into outdoor activities, the city’s prime location in the middle of the Carpathian Mountains make it a popular winter ski destination that attracts alpine enthusiasts from around Europe and the rest of the world. So whether you are curious about seeing the origins of Dracula, or just want to explore one of Eastern Europe’s oldest and most beautiful cities, the city of Brasov certainly won’t disappoint.
The city of Berlin, Germany is one city on my list of the 50 Top Destinations in Europe to Visit that probably needs little introduction. In addition to being one of the most historically significant cities in Europe, it is also one of the continent’s top tourist destinations. Out of all the locations that you will find on my list, the city of Berlin may be one of the most unique. The city has had a very tumultuous past, having been nearly bombed into oblivion during the Second World War and then divided between East and West up until the late 1980’s. However, in the last three quarters of a century, Berlin has undergone a tremendous transformation and is now one of the most diverse and open-minded cities in the world. I guess that is why some say that Berlin is an old city with a young heart.
With the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin Wall Memorial, Reichstag Building, and the Pergamonmuseum to explore, the city of Berlin has a lot of sights to keep history buffs busy during their visit. However, the Berlin of today has much more to offer travelers than historical landmarks and memorials to more somber times. The city is also home to some of Europe’s most treasured museums, beautiful parks, and a world-renown zoo and aquarium. When you visit Berlin today, you will find a city that is constantly on the move. There is a rich art scene, vibrant nightlife, and a wide variety of world-class restaurants and comfy cafes, travelers of all interests will be enthralled with this old city that has been reborn.
I can’t argue with any of these (thought I’ve only been to one – Madrid – and that was decades ago). In particular, Estonia and Greece pique my interest. Oh, and Berlin. Well, all of the places, really… 🙂
Great list, I’m looking forward to the rest of it and adding some places to my travel list!
Thank you so much Diana!