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 short on 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 50 of Europe’s Best Destinations to Visit.
So far in my countdown, I have covered some of Europe’s most iconic cities, most beautiful coastlines, and most breathtaking mountain villages. I have covered everything from some of Europe’s, if not the world’s, largest cities to some of Earth’s smallest islands. However, one thing that all of these destinations have had in common is that they are all incredible travel destinations located in the continent of Europe. 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 fifty of Europe’s best 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)|
Now that we have reached the final ten on my list of Europe’s best destinations, you would expect the locations in this installment of my list to be nothing short of magical. Well, a magical experience is certainly what you will get when you visit the enchanting town of Zermatt in southern Switzerland. Located at the foothills of the Swiss Alps near the border with Italy and home to the most photographed mountain in the world, Zermatt is one of the top alpine destinations in the entire world. If you are into outdoor adventure activities such as alpine climbing, skiing, or hiking, then you are going to be thrilled to learn more about this incredible place. However, Zermatt is more than just a mountain villa. It’s gorgeous town center, with rustic wooden chalets and beautiful old homes, is like something out of a story book. The only difference is, this story book is also filled with world-class spa hotels, adorable bakeries, a seemingly endless number of cute shops to visit, and some of the best restaurants in southern Switzerland.
For those who remember the background of the old Ricola commercials or have seen the wrapper of a Toberlone chocolate bar recently, then you are probably familiar with the infamous Matterhorn mountain. This mountain has been mesmerizing climbers, hikers, and skiers for centuries with its vertical rock faces and craggily peak. Every year, thousands of climbers descend on Zermatt on their way to try and reach the summit of this majestic mountain. Each winter, the town is also flooded with skiing enthusiasts who use Zermatt as a basecamp to ski the incredible mountain slopes surrounding the city. If you think the fun stops when the snow melts, then you would be mistaken. During the summer months, the skiers depart and are replaced by droves of tourists who are eager to hike the many alpine trails surrounding Zermatt. The town itself is car free, so all visitors who come to Zermatt must do so aboard a cog train that services the city. Being in Zermatt, one of Europe’s best destinations is fun, but the train ride thru the Swiss Alps to get to Zermatt may be the real adventure. Regardless of why you decide to visit Zermatt, I am certain the experience will be one that you will never forget.
|Visitor’s Guide to Zermatt, Switzerland|
Known as the “Venice of the North” because of its large number of beautiful canals, the beautiful town of Bruges, Belgium also has the distinction of having more castles per square inch than any other place on Earth. That’s right, the country of Belgium has more castles per square inch than any other country, and a whopping 50 of the 470 castles that are found in the Flanders region of Belgium are located around Bruges. In case that doesn’t do enough to distinguish this incredible city from the rest of Europe’s best destinations, Bruges is also home to a roadway that you can actually see from outer space and a 2-mile long beer pipeline. So if you are a fan of beer and cars, you will really enjoy your visit to Bruges. However, beautiful canals and beer pipelines aren’t the only alluring things about this incredible city. Bruges is filled with medieval buildings, cobblestone streets, quaint bakeries, and beautiful parks for visitors to enjoy. Located just a short 1-hour train ride from the capital city of Brussels, visiting Bruges is an absolute must when in Belgium.
For those who love to learn the history of the destinations they visit, the city of Bruges is a gold mine to explore. With an abundance of castles and medieval buildings and castles to visit in-and-around the city, you can spend days just exploring them. Some of my favorites include the incredible Belfry of Bruges, the Castle Loppem, and the beautiful Basilica of the Holy Blood. While you are visiting the basilica, make sure you take a moment to tour the rest of the breathtaking Burg Square. Not only are all of the buildings in the square stunning to look at, but it is also a great place to grab a bite to eat at one of the nearby restaurants. When you have had your fill of touring old buildings, a visit to the central Markt for some fresh chocolate and Belgian waffles as a treat is a must. However, make sure the chocolate that you buy says it is “freshly made”, as not all the chocolate you can buy in Bruges is locally made. Last, but certainly not least, a boat ride thru the city’s canals is an absolute must when visiting Bruges. Not only is the city stunning to look at from the water, but it is a great way to get around. One ride thru Bruges canals and you will be in love with the city forever.
|The Complete Bruges, Belgium Visitor Guide|
While I have already highlighted a few islands on my list of Europe’s best destinations so far, the next city on my list isn’t known for its breathtaking beaches and warm weather. Instead, the incredible city of Reykjavík, Iceland is known for its breathtaking landscapes that attract landscape photographers in droves and for its breathtaking displays of the Northern Lights. At a latitude of 64 degrees and 8 minutes North, Reykjavík is the northernmost capital city of a sovereign state in the world. While it may not have the year-round swimsuit weather that other island destinations have, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pack your swimsuit when visiting Reykjavík. The name Reykjavík translates to roughly mean “Smoky Bay” because of the active geothermal vents that are found throughout the area. These geothermal vents create natural hot springs that are a huge attraction for locals and visitors alike. Located just outside of Reykjavík, the manmade Blue Lagoon may not be a natural hot spring, but it is one of the city’s largest tourist attractions. No matter where you decide to take a soak during your trip, slipping into a warm pool of water after a long day of sightseeing and looking up at the clear star-filled sky is an experience you will remember forever.
Arguably the biggest attraction for visitors who come to Reykjavík is the renown Ring Road. This epic road trip takes you thru some of Iceland’s most iconic landscapes. On it, you will pass incredible waterfalls, such as the Skógafoss Falls, Gullfoss Falls, and the breathtaking Aldeyjarfoss Falls. Visitors who drive the Ring Road will also get to see some of the most breathtaking coastline in all of Europe. The Lóndrangar, Látrabjarg, and Dyrhólaey stretches of coastline are nothing short of spectacular. If you are lucky, you will get to spot an Atlantic Puffin in the wild. The Reykjavik area is home to roughly 60% of the world’s Atlantic Puffin population. For those who visit in the autumn or winter, you will also get to see one of Mother Nature’s most amazing natural displays. During this time of year, the Reykjavík area is one of the best places in the world to witness the phenomenon known as the Northern Lights. Few things in this world can match seeing this beautiful display of dancing lights in the sky in person.
When you have had your fill of waterfalls and beautiful sky lights, there are plenty of attractions to enjoy in the city as well. The Hallgrimskirkja church, which was built to resemble volcanic basalt lava columns, is one of Europe’s most unique and beautiful churches. In addition, the Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall in town is the home of the amazing Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and hosts a variety of big name concerts throughout the year. These are just some of the many things that make Reykjavík one of Europe’s best destinations and a place that every traveler should have high on their bucket list.
There are may cities on my list of Europe’s best destinations that have become extremely popular tourist destinations in recent years, but none so more than Prague, the beautiful capital city of the Czech Republic. Often compared to Paris because of its charm, romantic feel, and very walkable streets, Prague is a city that seems to beckon to most travel enthusiasts looking for an authentic and memorable travel experience. One look at the city, and it won’t be hard for you to figure out why. It’s rich history, breathtaking parks, exciting nightlife, and picturesque views around every corner help the city sell itself as one of Europe’s best destinations. The city of Prague is one of the few cities in Europe that will appeal to all types of travelers. The romantics will love it because of its charm and Paris-like feel, history buffs will be enamored with is glorious castles and beautiful old buildings, and the foodies will delight in the extraordinary local cuisine and rave about the craft beer scene. The locals drink more beer per capita than anywhere else in the world, so good beer is never in short supply. One thing is certain when you visit Prague, and that is you will never be in short supply of incredible things to see and do.
Built on the banks of one of Europe’s prettiest rivers, the Vltava, the the city’s beautiful orange-topped roofs seem to go on forever. Prague is one of Europe’s best preserved cities, so walking along the many charming cobblestone streets as you tour the city is a delight. Dominating the skyline on the outskirts of the city is the incredible Prague Castle, which is the largest castle in the world. The castle encompasses a whopping 18 acres of land and includes stunning cathedrals, palaces, beautiful gardens, and elaborate chapels. Another of the city’s renown attractions is the incredible Charles Bridge, which is the focal point of more tourist pictures of the city of Prague than I can imagine. It’s one of the main focal points in the city and one of the top photo spots for visitors. If you are looking to get some great aerial shots of the city, then you won’t want to miss a stop at the Petřín Lookout Tower to get some breathtaking views of the city from above. While you are up there, keep an eye out for the spectacular Dancing House that was inspired by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Designed by Frank Gehry, it is one of the most unique buildings that you will see in the entire world and one of the biggest attractions in Prague. After you visit Prague, I am sure you’ll find that it is one of those cities you’ll want to come back to again-and-again.
There have been many cities in Spain on my list of Europe’s best destinations, which goes to show you just how incredible I think this country is. Although I have already highlighted some truly spectacular Spanish destinations, my favorite city in Spain and one of my favorite cities in Europe is undoubtedly the wonderful city of Barcelona. It is one of the most vibrant, energetic, and colorful cities in the world. Not only is it the second most visited city in Spain, but it is also the fourth most visited city in Europe and the twelfth most visited city in the entire world. Located on Spain’s northern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona is known for its quirky, yet cosmopolitan, vibe that sets it a part from the other cities of Spain. The city has a rich history that may pre-date the Roman Empire, some of the most beautiful green spaces in all of Europe, and is widely considered to have some of the world’s most beautiful architecture. If visiting Spain is high on your bucket list, the city of Barcelona is an absolute must-see when touring the country.
One thing that the city of Barcelona is most popular for is its incredible architecture. In fact, it is the only city to ever win a RIBA Royal Gold Medal for its architecture. That’s right, for the first time ever, a city, rather than an architect, won the award. One tour of the city and it won’t be hard for you to understand why. With some of Europe, and perhaps this world’s, most incredible buildings, the architecture in Barcelona is drop-dead gorgeous. This includes the 10 iconic buildings that were built by the infamous Antonio Gaudí. His buildings are some of the most popular tourist spots in the city. Undoubtedly, the most popular of these buildings is the infamous Sagrada Familia. This incredible church has been under construction for over 100 years and is still being finished to this day. It is one of the most ornate structures in the world, which makes it an absolute delight to tour.
In addition to the millions of tourists who fly into Barcelona each year, the city is also one of the busiest cruise destinations in the world. Each year, roughly 3 million tourists come to the city aboard a cruise ship. This can be a fun way to visit Barcelona and many other of Europe’s best destinations along the Mediterranean coast. Speaking of the coast, if you love to soak up sun on your trips, then you definitely won’t find a shortage of incredible beaches to enjoy in Barcelona. It may sound hard to believe, but before hosting the Olympic Games in 1992, the city of Barcelona didn’t have any beaches. The spectacular beaches that you can enjoy around the city these days were created for those Olympics and have quickly become some of Europe’s best. So whether you are planning to visit Barcelona to enjoy its incredible food, beautiful beaches, stunning architecture, or just to soak up its incredible culture, it is certainly a trip that you will cherish forever.
|Travelor’s Guide to Barcelona|
With a wealth of rich history, a vibrant nightlife, and one of Europe’s youngest populations, the beautiful city of Dublin, Ireland has long been one of Europe’s best destinations for travelers. It is a city that is steeped in cultural and literary history, but loves to let loose and have fun when all the work is done. Dublin is a city that has given the world everything from the incredible rock bands U2, the Dubliners, Kodaline, and the Script, but is also home to a college that produced the likes of Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, and Bram Stoker (the creator of Count Dracula). For those who are looking for a trip where they can learn something, but also have a great time, then I would look no further than the capital city of Ireland. It isn’t the cheapest of Europe’s best destinations to visit, but with the right planning, Dublin can be an affordable place to visit.
Being a fan of history and beautiful churches, one of my favorite spots to visit in Dublin is the incredible St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This breathtaking church is beautiful on the outside and even prettier on the interior. It is definitely worth touring when you visit the city. As is the Dublin Castle, which includes a museum, a state room, and a gothic chapel. For travelers who are into history, taking an afternoon to tour the castle certainly won’t disappoint. One of the most prominent landmarks in the city of Dublin is the River Liffey, which runs thru the city. As you are out walking about Dublin, I would recommend taking a walk across the O’Connell Bridge. It is the only bridge in Europe that is actually wider than it is long. It’s a great spot to capture some Instagram photos of yourself enjoying the city.
While these are all great things to see and do in Dublin, the things the city is most well-known for are its beer and its pubs. The city has over 650 pubs, with the oldest dating back to 1198. So no matter where you are in the city, you won’t have to walk far to find a pint of beer to enjoy. One of the spots that I would definitely recommend enjoying a beer at is the Temple Bar. This area of Dublin is known for being a very hip district with a lot of lively pubs. When you you visit for a pint of beer, I would definitely recommend ordering the locally brewed Guinness. Guinness has been a staple in Ireland for centuries, and today the city brews over 10 million pints of this delicious dark beer every day. When you visit this incredible city in the future and stop at one of its many wonderful pubs, make sure you have a Guinness for me!
|Dublin, Ireland Visitor’s Guide|
We’re getting near the end of my list of Europe’s best destinations and the cities remaining on my list are some of the most iconic travel destinations in all the world, let alone Europe. When it comes to iconic European destinations, I don’t know that they get much bigger and more notable than the incredible city of London, England in the United Kingdom. The city was home to some of the most renown and fascinating people in history, including the likes of famed biologist Charles Darwin, rock legend Jimi Hendrix, explorer David Livingstone, composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and many, many more. Today, the Greater London Area is one of the most diverse metropolises in the world. The city is estimated to be home to roughly 8 million residents who collectively speak over 300 different languages. In fact, it is said that there are more Indian restaurants in the Greater London Area than there are in all of New Delhi, India. This beautiful, diverse, culturally rich city is infamous for its amazing historical sights, incredible cultural traditions, splendid shopping and dining, and of course its amazing people.
What many travelers don’t realize is that, when they say London, they are really thinking about the Greater London Area. The actually city of London is quite small. In fact, it only has roughly 9-thousand residents and is actually the smallest city in England. The Greater London Area is comprised of many different cities that make up one large metropolitan area, and is what most people refer to when they reference London. In addition to being home to some of Europe’s most famed historical sights, including the beautiful Buckingham Palace, the infamous Tower of London, and the incredible Tower Bridge, London is also one of the greenest cities in Europe. In fact, by the United Nation’s definition, the city of London is technically considered a forest. There are plenty of incredible parks, like the renown Hyde Park, for visitors to walk thru to escape the hustle-and-bustle of the city. The city of London is also home to some of Europe’s most famed museums. For those who love to explore museums when traveling, the Greater London Area has over 170 amazing museums for you to enjoy. So whether you are backpacking thru Europe’s best destinations or looking to fly into London for an extended stay, the city is as beautiful and incredible as it is large.
|The Complete London Travel Guide|
Known as the “City of Light” because of the high concentration of intellectuals that have called the city their home over the many centuries, the breathtakingly beautiful and romantic city of Paris, France is cemented on virtually every list of Europe’s best destinations to travel. There are few cities in the world, let alone Europe, that are as beautiful, historically significant, and as culturally rich as the capital city of France. Paris is a city that you could visit every year for a decade, and only scratch the surface of the wonderful things there is to see and do within the city. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you discover a new treasure around another corner. The city’s reputation for being one of this world’s most beautiful and romantic destinations is so strong that it can sometimes be hard to live up to. Tourists will sometimes build the city up so high in their minds that they are disappointed when they arrive to find that the city isn’t some otherworldly destination. It is a unique phenomenon that is known as “Paris Syndrome”. However, that doesn’t mean that Paris isn’t a fantastic place to visit, because its position on my list of Europe’s best destinations is a clear indication that I certainly think it is.
When asked what attraction lures the most tourists to Paris, I think that most travelers would guess the Eiffel Tower. Considering Paris is known as a romantic city and the Eiffel Tower is one of the world’s most romantic monuments, it wouldn’t be a bad guess. However, it wouldn’t be the correct guess either. In fact, the Eiffel Tower barely makes it into the Top 5 of the list of incredible things that people come to Paris to see. That alone should tell you how fantastic the city is. The top tourist attraction in the city of Paris is actually the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, which is one of the world’s most renown churches. In addition to being truly breathtaking, it is also steeped in history. After the cathedral, the Sacré-Coeur Basilica is the next most popular attraction in the city of Paris. Like the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, it is a breathtaking old church that is incredible to tour. If touring beautiful, old churches isn’t your thing, then the most popular attraction in Paris is probably the infamous Louvre Museum. It is the biggest art gallery in the world and the third most popular tourist attraction in Paris.
When I say the Louvre Museum is big, I mean it is really, really big. If you were to try and see every piece of art that is in the museum, it would take you over eight months to tour. In fact, the museum is so large that at one time Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa painting was stolen from the museum and it took over 24-hours before anyone even noticed. Thankfully, the painting was restored to the museum and it and all of its treasures can still be enjoyed by tourists today. Speaking of enjoying Paris, one of the things that travelers typically rave about after visiting Paris is the food. Not only is there an abundance of incredible Michelin star restaurants for visitors to enjoy, but all of the small cafes with their freshly baked baguettes are legendary. The history of cafes in Paris is so storied that the first café to open in the city pre-dates the formation of the United States by nearly a century. These cafes are just another of the many reasons why Paris is one of Europe’s best destinations for visitors to travel to and why it should be near the top of every traveler’s bucket list.
Not only does the breathtakingly beautiful city of Istanbul, Turkey hold the distinction of being the largest city on my list of Europe’s best destinations, but it is also the only destination on my list that exists on two continents. Lying on the banks of the incredible Bosphorus River, the city of Istanbul has one foot in Europe and the other in Asia. This makes it the world’s only transcontinental city. Although the city has been the capital of three different empires during its lifetime (the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Empires), it isn’t the capital city of modern day Turkey. That distinction goes to the amazing city of Ankara. When the city was being rebuilt by the Romans between 326 and 330 AD, the Roman Emperor Constantine was said to have wanted to model the city after Rome. Because of this, Istanbul is often referred to as “New Rome”. Today, the city of Istanbul is one of the most incredible melting pots of cultures that you will find in the world. Visitors who travel to Istanbul will find an incredible and exhilarating mix of Eastern and Western culture, as well as some of the most breathtaking architecture and lively markets on the planet.
The famed Alphonse de Lamartine once said of Istanbul, “If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul”. When choosing one of Europe’s best destinations to visit, I can think of no wiser words to heed. In many ways, you cannot say that you have truly seen the continent of Europe without seeing this marvelous gateway city. In addition to is incredible mix of cultures, the city of Istanbul has some of the most beautiful and historically significant structures in all of Europe. Of all the landmarks and monuments in the city, none are as renown or as popular with tourists as the famed Hagia Sophia. Finished in 360 AD, the building first served as a Byzantine Christian cathedral until becoming a Roman Catholic cathedral in 1204. When the city fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453, it was converted into the city’s grand Mosque, which it served as for nearly 500 years. Today, the beautiful building serves as a museum that attracts millions of visitors from around the world each year. In addition to its beautiful Mosques and other incredible historical structures, the city of Istanbul is widely considered to be one of the best shopping destinations in all of Europe. Of all the city’s markets, none are as big and long-standing than the spectacular Grand Bazaar. Having operated since 1461, the Grand Bazaar is home to over 5,000 vendor stalls, which makes it one of the largest covered markets in the entire world. When visiting Istanbul, I would recommend spending a large portion of a day just touring this wonderful market and learning more about the local cultures. For travelers who are looking for an experience like none other in Europe, I cannot think of a better destination for your next big adventure than the amazing city of Istanbul.
The process of deciding which city would be number one on my list of Europe’s best destinations to visit was a very difficult one. Each of the cities that I have covered in my final installment in some way could be considered Europe’s best destination to visit. However, when I sat down to look at this final group of destinations, one city stood above all the rest. Widely considered to have been the “cradle of the Renaissance”, the city of Florence, Italy gave the world brilliant artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. According to UNESCO, if you visit Florence today, you will find a mind-blowing one-third of the world’s art treasures within the city. One of the most famous of these works of art is Michelangelo’s sculpture masterpiece David, which is shown at the city’s Accademia Gallery. The art in Florence is so profoundly beautiful that over history it has given rise to a unique phenomenon known as the Stendhal Syndrome. This syndrome refers to the accelerated heartbeat and fainting of people who witness the incredible artwork of the city. It may sound made up, but since afflicting French author Stendhal back in 1817, the phenomenon has been recorded many times.
In addition to being the birthplace to some of the world’s most renown artists, the city of Florence has also shaped this world in many other areas. If you love music, you will find it interesting to learn that Florence was the birthplace for both the piano and opera. For those who love fashion, I probably don’t need to remind you that Florence gave the world such iconic fashion brands like Gucci. The science lovers out there are likely well aware that scientific titans such as the astronomer Galileo made Florence their home. In addition, history’s most famous nurse, Florence Nightingale was born in Florence, Italy back in 1820. These are just some of the many, many ways in which the incredible city of Florence, Italy has shaped this world and what makes it such an amazing destination to visit.
Each year, a mind-blowing 15 million tourists come to Florence to experience its history, culture, and artistic treasures for themselves. One of the most popular tourist destinations inside the city is undoubtedly the incredible Duomo in Florence. Completed in 1436 after 140 years of construction, it is the third largest Duomo in the world. The only domes in the world that are larger are St.Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St. Paul’s in London. Another of the popular destinations for visitors to Florence is the incredible Ponte Vecchio. This beautiful bridge was the only bridge in Florence not destroyed during World War II, and it is said that Hitler refused to let it be destroyed because of its beauty. Thankfully, this beautiful bridge still stands today and can be enjoyed by all visitors who come to Florence. However, one of my favorite parts about visiting Florence doesn’t actually have anything to do with the city itself. Because of its location adjacent to the Tuscany region of Italy, Florence is often referred to as the “Gateway to Tuscany”. In addition to being one of the most beautiful and profoundly important cities historically in all of Europe, it is also one of the best hubs to visit to access one of Europe’s best wine regions. Its close proximity makes it very easy to take day trips into Tuscany for wine tours between days touring the city’s many galleries, museums, and historical sights. One thing is for certain, once you visit Florence, you may never want to leave.
|Florence, Italy Visitor’s Guide|
Get My Ultimate Travel Guide
Sign-up to receive the latest updates from my travel blog and start receiving premium content that you will not find on this blog, starting with my Ultimate Travel Guide. This comprehensive guide outlines the process that I use to book all of my trips and includes tips and tricks for streamlining the travel planning process and saving you money on travel.