LAST UPDATED – 10/17/22 – Europe’s Best Destinations
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 European Destinations to Visit.
I have already covered some truly spectacular destinations in the first two installments of my list of the 50 Top European Destinations, so make sure you check those articles out as well. In this installment, I will be highlighting some wonderful destinations that you may not have considered visiting in Europe, but are quickly becoming some of the world’s most popular tourist spots. Truth be told, there are so many fantastic cities and small towns in Europe that I could do a Top 200 and still not list them all, but for this countdown, I am going to focus on the 50 top European destinations 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)|
Nicknamed “Little Paris” between the two world wars because of its breathtakingly beautiful architecture, legends say that Bucharest actually got its name from a shepherd named Bucur that was one of the first to settle the area. The legend has it that Bucur fell in love with a woman named Dambovita, which is the name of the main river that passes thru the city. Whatever you want to call it, Bucharest is one of Eastern Europe’s most beautiful cities and a solid lock to make most lists of the top European destinations to visit. This vibrant capital city of Romania has been on a mission to rebuild itself since the fall of the communist regime in 1989, and its current embracement of modernism is making the city one of the fastest growing tourism hotspots in all of Europe. With so many wonderful museums, fantastic art galleries, and a café culture that puts most European countries to shame, Bucharest’s popularity with tourists is only going to continue to grow.
There is so much to see and do in and around Bucharest that travelers don’t have a hard time filling out their itineraries when visiting. For those who are museum enthusiasts, the world-class National Museum of Romanian History and The National Museum of Art of Romania are sure to impress. If touring beautiful, old buildings and learning about the city’s history are more your pace, then you will be delighted to see the likes of the Arch Of Triumph, Palace of Parliament, and the beautiful Mogoşoaia Palace. When you have had your fill of sight-seeing, the city is also home to some of the most energetic public squares that you will find in Europe. Whether to grab a bite to eat, do some people watching, or partake in the city’s new tea craze at one of the city’s many wonderful cafes, some time spent in either University’s Square or one of the city’s other central hubs will be time worth spent. So if you are looking to visit one of the top European destinations on your next trip, I would definitely recommend that you not overlook the amazing city of Bucharest.
There are some cities on my list of the Top 50 European destinations to visit that have a tumultuous past, and the city of Rijeka, Croatia is certainly one of them. Long before the Berlin Wall separated the city of Berlin between East and West, there was a barbed wire fence split Rijeka into two along the city’s Dead Channel. However, those turbulent times seem to be well in the rear view mirror as the city of Rijeka was recently named the 2020 European Cultural Capital. One visit to this amazing city, and it won’t be hard for you to see why. In addition to being one of Eastern Europe’s most beautiful port cities, Rijeka is also home to one of Europe’s largest carnival festivals. In fact, it is so large that it almost rivals the one held in Venice, Italy. However, the city has much more to offer than just beautiful coastline and masked parties. Rijeka is famed for its breathtakingly beautiful architecture, breathtaking galleries, and lively café scene. While it may have once been an after thought to many tourists, the city is quickly getting the attention from travelers that it deserves.
One of the things that I love the most about Rijeka is its beautiful architecture, which has been amazingly preserved throughout the city’s history. If you are a fan of beautiful buildings, then you are going to love touring landmarks like the Trsat Fortress, Cathedral of St. Vitus, and the Sanctuary of the Mother of God Trsat. For those looking to get away for a relaxing break from the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life, the city is also home to some of Eastern Europe’s most beautiful beaches. With Sablićevo Beach, Pećine Beach, and Preluk Beach nearby, there are plenty of plenty of gorgeous beaches within the city for you to enjoy. Though of all the amazing things to see and do in this incredible city, experiencing the culture of this warm and accepting city and its hospitable people may be the most enjoyable. Whether you experience that culture during the city’s extraordinary Carnival festival, or just by perusing the shops and cafes in popular centers like Korzo, you will be glad to get to know the city of Rijeka, its amazing people, and this top European destination a little better.
28. Monte Carlo
For those who love James Bond films, Formula One racing, and high stakes gambling, the city of Monte Carlo in Monaco should be near the top of your list of top European destinations to visit. There are some flashy cities in Europe, but Monte Carlo takes it to a whole new level. Located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea between France and Italy, the country of Monaco’s total population is only just above 30,000 people. In fact, the country is so small that it doesn’t even have its own defense force. Instead, it relies on France for its protection. However, what it lacks in size it most certainly makes up for in wealth. It is estimated that roughly 30% of Monaco’s population is worth at least a million dollars. In light of this, it should come as no surprise that Monaco is one of the favorite vacation spots for the rich and famous. However, the country of Monaco and its capital city of Monte Carlo aren’t just for the wealthy these days. Most of the workforce for the casinos and hotels arrive in the city each day from France and Italy, along with plenty of tourists looking to get a glimpse of this high-stakes playground.
If the city looks familiar to you, it may be that you recognize it from the three James Bond films that had scenes shot in Monte Carlo. Or, it could be the fact that one of Formula One’s most popular races, the Monaco Grand Prix, takes place in the streets of Monte Carlo each year. If you visit Monte Carlo, it will be very difficult to forget the beauty of such grand buildings as the iconic Casino de Monte-Carlo, Prince’s Palace of Monaco, or the ornate St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral. The intricate detail and lavish design of the entire city will absolutely blow you away. However, Monte Carlo isn’t only about putting on the Ritz. There are plenty of incredible beaches and green spaces in the city for visitors to enjoy as well. The Exotic Garden of Monaco, Balzi Rossi, and the incredible views of the city from Castle Hill will leave you speechless. So if you are in the mood to get dressed up and live the high life for a long weekend or even just a night, I would certainly keep the city of Monte Carlo in mind when planning your next big adventure to one of the top European destinations.
Speaking of James Bond, I bet many of you will be surprised to learn that Ian Fleming wrote the original James Bond books while he was living in the next city on my list of the top European destinations to visit. That’s right, much of the real inspiration for the James Bond trilogy was inspired by the beautiful Portuguese city of Cascais. However, the city of Cascais has much more to offer visitors than just a glimpse into the origins of 007. With dramatic coastal cliffs, breathtaking tiled streets, incredible seafood that will make your mouth water, and stunning beaches almost everywhere you look, it is truly one of Europe’s hidden gems. It doesn’t attract the tourism crowds that some of the other cities on my list do, but that is part of the allure and charm of Cascais. The city of Lisbon may get most of the attention from tourists, but the smart traveler wouldn’t overlook this quaint coastal town with a lot to offer.
Some of the most stunning beaches in Europe are located on the coast of Spain and Portugal, and Cascais certainly has its fair share. If you are looking to get away for a beach vacation, you will be absolutely delighted by the likes of Carcavelos beach, Tamariz Beach, Poça Beach, and the city’s other sandy retreats. The best part is, you won’t have to deal with the crowds that you typically see in the more traditional beach destinations of Europe. When you get tired of sitting in the sun, you can explore the city’s beautiful coastline at spots like Boca do Inferno and the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. Beyond the beaches and coastline, the city itself holds a number of treasures that visitors will enjoy. The Casino Estoril is a great place to spend the night after a long day in the sun. However, my favorite part about Cascais is undoubtedly the food. The foodies out there will be thrilled to learn that the city is renown for its delicious fresh seafood. The Portuguese have always excelled at cooking seafood, and the citizens of Cascais are no exception. So whether you are up for a beach getaway or want to indulge yourself in some of Europe’s most delightful seafood dishes, the amazing city of Cascais awaits you.
The home of IKEA, Abba, Roxette, the Cardigans, and Pippi Longstocking, the next city on my list of the top European destinations to visit is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, if not the world. Of course, I am talking about the largest and second most visited city in Scandinavia, the incredible Stockholm, Sweden. Often referred to as the “world’s smallest big city”, the city of Stockholm is spread out across fourteen different islands. This natural setting, along with its stunning architecture, numerous parks, and large quantity of open water has also drawn comparisons to the gorgeous city of Venice, Italy. In addition to being one of the prettiest cities in Europe, it is also one of the cleanest. The city’s complete lack of heavy industry means that there is virtually no air pollution in the city. The clean air and kind people, along with the cities wealth of fabulous museums, art galleries, parks, cafes, and attractions, has made Stockholm one of Europe’s fastest growing tourism hot spots.
Stockholm isn’t the cheapest destination on my list to visit, but if you are smart with your planning, it can be an affordable trip. Trust me, the time and effort you put into planning your trip to this incredible Nordic paradise will be worth it when you see the likes of the Royal Palace, the Drottningholm Palace, and the beautiful Medieval city center. For those who are foodies, you can’t leave Stockholm without trying the traditional dish of Swedish meatballs, served with gravy, boiled potatoes and lingonberry jam. You will find this tasty dish in restaurants and cafes throughout the city, to which there are many fabulous choices to choose from. As a cultural experience, I would also suggest taking a tour to see some of the famed locations associated with Swedish icons like Abba or visit the Nobel Prize Museum. Every year since 1901, this noble award has been presented in the city of Stockholm. Last, but certainly not least, no trip to Stockholm would be complete without getting out on the water and enjoying the breathtaking views. If you visit during the winter, you may even be treated to seeing the spectacular Northern Lights. That alone is worth experiencing when you visit this top European destination.
There certainly isn’t a shortage of breathtakingly beautiful cities in the country of Spain, with more than a few landing on my list of the top European destinations to visit. While the city of Córdoba may not be as big as Madrid or have the glamourous beaches of Valencia, it certainly gives the country’s other cities a run for their money in terms of beauty. Founded by the Romans in 169 BC, the city of Córdoba is much older than many visitors realize. With Spain changing hands between the Christians and Muslims numerous times throughout its history, the city also has one of the most diverse histories of any city in Europe. For centuries, it was one of the few places on Earth where Jews, Muslims, and Christians all lived in peaceful coexistence. Up until the 11th century, it was considered the most important capital city in Europe. Even today, you can see this diverse footprint upon the city when you look at its architecture, its cuisine, and its kind-hearted people.
Home to the mesmerizing Mezquita, which is one of the only cathedrals built inside Europe’s largest mosque, the city of Córdoba is known for its incredible ornate and beautiful architecture. The Mezquita itself is considered to be one of the most significant and beautiful buildings in all of Spain, if not Europe. Some other extraordinary landmarks you will find in the city include the Roman Bridge of Córdoba, the Medina Azahara, and the incredible Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. The Alcázar, which is Spanish for gardens, is one of the most beautiful that I have seen in my extensive travels. It will literally leave you speechless when you visit. I would also recommend making a stop in the city’s beautiful old town. There, you will find countless decorative patios and courtyards, and amazing cobblestone streets. If you plan your trip right and visit in May, you can also take part in the city’s Cordobeses Festival. At the end of the festival, they award the city’s most beautiful courtyard, so they are all decked out in the most elaborate fashion. However, no matter when you decide to visit Córdoba, I have no doubt you will fall in love with this top European destination.
Nestled next to the shores of the breathtaking Lake Lucerne, in the foothills of the majestic Swiss Alps, the city of Lucerne is one of Switzerland’s most beautiful cities. As the most populous town in Central Switzerland, Lucerne has long been considered the tourist capital of the stunning central region of Switzerland. One visit to Lucerne and it won’t be hard to distinguish why visitors are so mesmerized by Lucerne’s beauty. Not only is the city’s location on the crystal blue waters of Lake Lucerne, back-dropped by the mind-blowingly beautiful Swiss Alps, one of the most captivatingly beautiful locations in all of Europe, but the city itself has an air of beauty that will charm you at first sight. The intricately decorated houses, old wooden bridges, and gorgeous snow white swans are like something out of a fairytale. For those who are looking for a quiet mountain getaway for their next big adventure, you won’t find many more fitting city on my list of the top European destinations to visit.
In addition to is captivating location, the city of Lucerne itself has plenty of amazing and beautiful attractions for visitors to see. One of the most popular attractions in the city is the 14th century capel bridge known locally as Kapellbrück. This beautiful wooden bridge is extremely well preserved and includes many beautifully painted murals inside for visitors to enjoy. It’s a great place to enjoy an evening walk on your way to an authentic fondue dinner in the city. While you are touring the city, I would also recommend making a stop at the infamous Lion of Lucerne. This beautiful, yet somber stone carving was built to honor the hundreds of Swiss Guards who were massacred during the French Revolution. After a busy day touring the sights in the city, you can take a ride on the world’s steepest cogwheel railroad into the Swiss Alps and enjoy the breathtaking views of Lake Lucerne and the city from above. It is a view so beautiful that it will be imprinted on your mind for the rest of your life. Your only problem when visiting Lucerne is the real possibility that you won’t ever want to leave.
|Visitor’s Guide to Lucerne, Switzerland|
Despite being one of the smallest destinations on my list of the top European Destinations to visit, the tiny island of Santorini in Greece is also one of the most beautiful. Known for its gorgeous bleached white houses with blue roofs, crystal blue waters, and stunning sunsets, when you see Santorini for the first time it seems almost too lovely to be real. In so many ways, it is an island unlike any other on Earth. Not only is it the only known volcanic caldera on Earth that is inhabited by people, but it gets so little rain that it is rumored that there is more wine than water on the island. It’s a good thing then, that over 100 varieties of grapes grow on Santorini. While the Santorini’s beauty is not a well kept secret, there are many aspects of the island that many visitors don’t know. Despite being one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, Santorini didn’t have electricity until the 1960’s. Until then, only fishermen and their donkeys inhabited the island. Today, there is hardly a day of the year where Santorini’s beaches aren’t filled with wide-eyed visitors taking in the beauty of the island’s cliff-side homes and soft sand beaches.
While there is plenty to see and do on the island, most who visit Santorini come to enjoy the beautiful beaches and the incredible food. Not only are the beaches beautiful, but they come in all sorts of varieties. Between the incredible Red beach, gorgeous Perissa Black Sand Beach, and the incredible Kamari beach, you could spend weeks just exploring all of the island’s incredible beaches. However, if you did that, you’d miss out on some of the other amazing sights to see on the island. If you love history, then you won’t want to miss out on seeing the ruins at Ancient Thera or the Akrotiri archaeological site. For those who seek out incredible views when they travel, Santorini has plenty of those to enjoy as well. Between the Caldera viewpoint, the spectacular seaside cliffs at Paralia Vlichada, and the views from the peak of Profitis Ilias, you will have a lot of fantastic photo opportunities. No matter what brings Santorini, the southern most island in the beautiful Cyclades, it will certainly be a trip you won’t soon forget.
The continent of Europe is not short on cities that are beautiful or interesting. However, few cities in Europe combine beauty and intrigue quite like the wonderful city of Budapest, Hungry. As the home of Europe’s oldest underground, the inventor of the Rubik Cube, and the spice Paprika, there are many fascinating things that make this stunning city interesting to visit. Widely considered to be the “grand jewel of the Danube”, Budapest is not only one of the prettiest cities in Europe, but it is also one of the most budget-friendly cities for travelers. If you like to explore the cities you visit by foot, you will be delighted when you visit Budapest. The city is has an abundance of art galleries, historical sights, delightful markets, and incredible thermal pools for visitors to explore. Not only that, but it has the most underrated bar scenes in all of Europe. In fact, Budapest is the capital of “Ruins Pubs” in Europe. These former ghettos turned lively pubs and restaurants have been popping up all over the city in recent years and are the new craze in the city. If you visit Budapest, visiting one of these fascinating establishments should definitely be high on your list.
With breathtaking baroque and art nouveau buildings on virtually every street in the city, Budapest is a dream for sight-sighting enthusiasts. For those who are into history, you will be fascinated to know that Budapest is home to both the largest synagogue in Europe and Islam’s northernmost holy place. Both are absolutely breathtaking and amazing to see in person, as are Budapest’s other amazing treasures. With incredible landmarks and monuments like the Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge to explore, you will have little trouble filling your sightseeing itinerary. While you’re out, don’t forget to also stop by the famed Central Market Hall to sample the local food and drink. Like in most cities, the central market is a great way to get to know the local culture. However, without a doubt, one of the biggest tourist attractions in Budapest is the city’s many incredible thermal pools. In fact, Budapest has more thermal pools than any other city in the world. I can think of few better ways to relax after a long day of sight-seeing than taking a dip in a warm thermal bath. The Széchenyi Thermal Bath, Gellért Thermal Bath, and Lukacs Baths are just some of the many wonderful options to choose from. It’s a great way to wind down an amazing visit to one of Europe’s most incredible destinations.
21. Saint Petersburg
When many travelers think of Russia, their minds tend to go first to the capital city of Moscow and its infamous Red Square and Kremlin. However, one would be remiss if they overlooked the breathtakingly beautiful city of Saint Petersburg when planning their travelers to Russia. Unlike much of Russia, the city of Saint Petersburg is located in the continent of Europe. And like many of its incredible European counterparts like Paris, Rome, and Vienna, the city of Saint Petersburg has an extraordinary beauty and culture for visitors to explore. Even though it is one of the youngest cities in Europe, Saint Petersburg in many ways is one of the most culturally, historically, and architecturally significant cities in all of Europe. Even though it shares in the beauty of much of Europe, in many ways it could not be more different. When describing Russia to the world, Winston Churchill once declared the country to be, “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery inside of an enigma”. In many ways, no words are as true of the country of Russia, and its amazing European city of Saint Petersburg.
For those who are looking to explore Russia and its treasures, a stop in Saint Petersburg certainly won’t disappoint. With treasures like the State Hermitage Museum, Winter Palace, and Catherine Palace to explore, you will have no problem filling out your itinerary when touring the city. In fact, you might have trouble fitting in everything you want to see and do when visiting this incredible city. The renown Hermitage Museum alone would take you a whopping 10 years to fully explore. One of my favorite things about the beautiful city of Saint Petersburg is the incredible collection of stunning cathedrals in the city. While St. Isaac’s Cathedral and Smol’nyy Sobor are both beautiful in their own right, the crown jewel of the city is the world-renown Savior on the Spilled Blood. This incredible Russian Orthodox Cathedral is world-renown for its gorgeous exterior. When you have had your fill of sight-seeing around the city, there are also many cultural treasures in the city that you can experience as well. The St Petersburg Ballet and the infamous Amber Room are just a few of the worthwhile cultural attractions that visitors will enjoy. For those who are looking at dipping their toes into travel to Russia, I can think of no better city to start that exploration in than the amazing city of Saint Petersburg.