Europe is one of the most fascinating and beautiful places in the world – where else do you get so many different countries, and so much diversity of history, culture and landscapes, so close together!?
There’s no shortage of iconic places to visit in Europe. Whether you’re spending the summer backpacking or interrailing around Europe, or just planning a few weekend city breaks, choosing among the many incredible European cities is a challenging task.
The good thing about this is that whatever you are into, you will find it in Europe, from charming historical towns to vibrant modern cities to nature-rich coastal villages. But, if you’re unfamiliar with the best places to visit in Europe, choosing the right holiday destination can be tricky.
In this guide, we reveal the 12 best places to visit in Europe along with their top tourist attractions. So whether you’re after ancient ruins and historical sites, picturesque squares, bustling markets or exciting nightlife, read on to learn where YOU should visit in Europe next.
Top 12 European Destinations For Your Europe Bucket List
Here are ten of the most beautiful cities to visit in Europe, all with distinct characters and a wide range of unique attractions.
The UK’s capital city is often high on many people’s Europe bucket lists. Here you will find some of Europe’s top attractions, such as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, and The Tower of London.
Because of the city’s rich history and world-class museums, London is a top choice for history buffs. It’s also a must for anyone who wants to experience the iconic British culture, like afternoon tea, landscaped gardens, and cozy pubs.
Many tourists only visit London which is a shame because there’s so many more interesting places to visit in the UK from quaint old villages to lovely countryside, imposing castles and plenty more historically important towns.
If you want to explore more of the UK there are many day trips from London. Whether you want to visit ancient Stonehenge, the hip seaside city of Brighton, the picturesque Cotswolds, or the famous Canterbury Cathedral, London makes a great base from which to explore England.
Dubbed one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Paris is romantic, charming, artsy and one of the most visited cities in Europe, if not the world.
Aside from going up the iconic Eiffel Tower and visit the stunning Palais of Versailles you can also visit the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral and spend hours wandering around Île de la Cité, the historic neighborhood of the French capital.
Spend at least 4 days in Paris to visit the famous attractions, take a cruise along the River Seine and to allow enough time to eat endless croissants and baguettes in the many sidewalk cafes, browse the designer boutiques and soak up the chic vibes.
If you tire of the city, take a day trip from Paris and relax in the vineyards and chateaus and rolling countryside of the Loire Valley.
Another trendy European city is Amsterdam, the capital of The Netherlands. While it is famed for its controversial red light district and “coffeeshops,” it is also one of the best European destinations for nightlife; if you’re looking for wild nights out, that is!
During the day, check out some of the city’s famous museums like the Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum, and Rijksmuseum. Or take a day trip to one of the nearby quaint villages like Zaanse Schans to experience some authentic Dutch culture and see windmills and tulips.
With so much history, charm and amazing food, Italy is without a doubt one of the best countries to visit in Europe. And no trip to Italy would be complete without a visit to Rome, Italy’s hub of historical architecture.
Rome is also known as ‘the Eternal City’, as ancient Romans believed that no matter what happened in the world, Rome would never die. Dating back to 28 centuries, there’s so much to see in Rome so it’s no surprise that its is one of the most visited cities in Europe and the world. If you plan your trip carefully you can escape the crowds by knowing where to stay in Rome.
Rome is home to some of the most famous tourist attractions worldwide, including the Colosseum and Vatican City. Yet the food is just as good as the landmarks, making it a must-visit for any foodie.
Venice is a dream destination for all romantics and anyone who likes unique cities. Venice consists of over 118 tiny islands with canals running between them all. An unmissable experience here is taking a gondola through the city’s canals, like Grand Canal.
While Venice is a very beautiful city with a charming town center full of Renaissance and Gothic palaces, including the famous St Marks Square, however I would avoid visiting in peak season in July and August as it becomes too crowded.
At other times of the year you can easily lose the crowds and get lost wandering the unique old lanes and canals, especially if you research where to stay in Venice and find beautiful and romantic hotels off the main canal.
Venice is known to be an expensive destination but don’t let that put you off from visiting this magical, romantic and unique city. Read this handy tips on how to enjoy Venice on a budget.
Barcelona is my favourite city in the world and one of the very best places to visit in Europe if you love a combination of city living and beach vibes. Thanks to its coastal location along the Mediterranean Sea, Barcelona offers many things to do, including a gorgeous beach, vibrant nightlife, and stunning architecture.
After checking out La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, and Casa Mila, wander around the Gothic quarter (the historic center). This quirky area has narrow medieval streets filled with trendy bars and traditional restaurants. And if you’re visiting with kids, or simply looking for an adrenaline-filled day trip, head to Tibidabo amusement park in the north of the city.
Sunny Spain is also one of the best countries to visit in Europe with so much to offer, from beautiful beaches to flamboyant cities. Another one of my favourite Spanish cities is Seville in Andalusia.
Lisbon, the charming pastel-colored capital of Portugal, has a unique old-world charm. Located on the banks of the Tagus River, this unique city has a rich history that spans centuries.
Take a ride on the iconic old yellow trams and explore the narrow winding streets of Alfama, the oldest district. Discover its captivating maze of alleyways and traditional Fado music and admire the stunning views over the city from the São Jorge Castle.
Take a trip out to Belem to learn about Portugal’s Age of Discoveries and visit the Belem Tower and the Jeronimos Monastery. Indulge in the local delicacy, pastel de nata, at the historic Pasteis de Belem and relax on the beaches in Cascais. Portugal never fails to enchant.
Check out my Spain and Portugal road trip itinerary to see two amazing countries in one epic trip
Budapest, the enchanting capital of Hungary is one of the best European cities for culture and good times. The 19th-century Chain Bridge crosses the River Danube and connects the two distinctly different parts of the city – the hilly Buda district and flat Pest.
Catch the old funicular up Castle Hill to explore Budapest Castle and Old Town. Don’t miss the views from the photogenic Fisherman’s Bastion. Gaze across the river at the impressive neo-Gothic Hungarian Parliament Building and then relax in the cities famous thermal spas.
Another significant part of any Budapest trip is exploring the iconic ruin bars, which you can find in the old Jewish quarter. Housed in old, abandoned buildings, they are decorated with quirky furniture and hip decor and serve up some of the best craft beer you’ve ever tasted and affordable prices.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is the enchanting capital of the Czech Republic, and regarded by many as the jewel of Central Europe. Nicknamed “the City of a Hundred Spires”, because of its many historical sights, castles, churches and old town square, home to the intricate astronomical clock.
Prague may not be as flashy as London or Paris, but it’s charm is undeniable and it is one the best destinations to visit in Europe for anyone intrigued by it’s history, fairy tale atmosphere, beautiful architecture and great beer!
Start your journey at Prague Castle, a huge and stunning complex that houses the iconic St. Vitus Cathedral and offers panoramic views of the city. Stroll across the famous medieval stone Charles Bridge which is adorned with statues and explore the fascinating Jewish Quarter. Finish your day by sampling some of the best beer in Europe.
Athens is not just the capital of Greece and the gateway to various dreamy Greek islands. It is also home to The Acropolis, an incredible UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most famous landmark in Athens. This iconic hilltop citadel boasts the remains of various 5th-century BC landmarks like the colonnaded Parthenon temple and many other ancient monuments.
If you want to learn more about Athen’s history, visit the National Archaeological Museum. Also check out the city centre is also an interesting area that blends old and new with a fast-paced modern world operating around a visually historic location.
And if you want to head out to Greek’s stunning islands the port city of Piraeus is not far from Athens. Take a short ferry ride or an island hopping day trip and explore the tiny but beautiful islands of Hydra, Spetses and Aegina.
Berlin is another city known for its mix of past and present. After a turbulent 20th century saw the city divided during the Cold War, Berlin has made an epic comeback.
The city’s historical landmarks, modern architecture, and vibrant art scene make Berlin one of the coolest cities to visit in Europe, with a happening nightlife scene. It’s also a popular base for digital nomads.
An important part of Berlin’s history is the Berlin Wall. However, only segments of it remain today in places like the East Side Gallery which have now become memorial sites full of colorful murals.
Other Berlin landmarks include the Reichstag Building and the Brandenburg Gate, which became a symbol of reunification after the wall fell in 1989 and signalled the end of the Soviet Union.
Istanbul, a fascinating metropolis that sits on the crossroads between Europe and Asia, is a captivating blend of ancient traditions and modern wonders.
This sprawling city was once the centre of the Ottoman Empire and offers a treasure trove of history and iconic attractions. To get your bearings take a cruise along the Bosphorus Strait to admire the city’s unique skyline and witness the fusion of cultures.
From the majestic domes and minarets of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, to the Topkapi Palace and the Basilica Cistern, there’s so much to explore in Istanbul.
Don’t forget to wander through the bustling Grand Bazaar, visit the Hamman and savor the delights of Turkish cuisine, from mouthwatering kebabs to aromatic baklava. You’ll soon see why Istanbul is one of the greatest cities in the world.
Final thoughts on the best places to visit in Europe
While this is not a complete list of all the best places to visit in Europe, if its your first time visiting this part of the world then the iconic cities on this list are an excellent place to start. Just be prepared for crowds if you visit in the peak season in July and August.
Traveling between certain European cities by train is quick, easy and sustainable. So its well worth including a few different cities in your Euro trip itinerary and spending a few days in each destination.
Popular routes include London, Paris and Amsterdam and Paris to Rome via Switzerland. You could even retracing the routes of the Orient Express all the way to Istanbul. Get more inspiration with these amazing Europe by rail itineraries.
The options for exploring Europe are almost endless, but wherever you choose to go visiting Europe is always a delightful experience.
Need more travel inspiration? Check out:
- The best places to visit in the UK
- The best places to visit in Australia
- The best places to visit in the USA
- The best places to visit in Asia