Top Places In Europe You Should Visit At Least Once
It’s impossible to see all the beautiful and amazing places in Europe, but one can certainly try. To make the most of your time traveling Europe, though, it’s helpful to know which places are exceptional.
U.S. News & World Report did the research and came up with a list of the absolute best places to visit in Europe. Most are cities, but there are also regions and archipelagos included.
If you’re planning a Eurotrip or simply daydreaming about one, here are the top 25 European destinations to have on your radar.
Fun Fact: From 1924 to 1984, dogs were banned in Reykjavik to stop the spread of a contagious tapeworm.
*Rankings are based on a recent report from U.S. News & World Report.
Best Things to Do in Reykjavik
The Icelandic capital is often thought to be simply a gateway to the rest of the rugged country. But the city is actually a worthy destination on its own, full of Viking history and views of the ocean. A visit to the iconic Hallgrimskirkja is a must, as is spending time at the National Museum.
That being said, we encourage you to see other parts of the country as well. Dip into the healing waters of the Blue Lagoon, one of the most unusual pools in the world. You can also visit some of the country’s astonishing natural wonders, like the Strokkur geyser and Thingvellir National Park.
Fun Fact: Seville has been used as the location for several movies and TV shows, including “Game of Thrones,” “007: Die Another Day,” “Star Wars Episode II” and “Lawrence of Arabia.”
Best Things to Do in Seville
Even if you do nothing in Seville except walk around, you’ll have an incredible time. Considered one of the most beautiful cities in all of Spain, Seville is the pride of Andalucia. The city has many examples of Moorish architecture, including the intricate Plaza de España.
Seville is also responsible for both tapas and flamenco, which means the rest of Spain — the rest of the world, really — will be eternally indebted to it.
Population: 15.46 million
Fun Fact: Although it’s not the capital of Turkey (a fun geography fact most people get wrong), Istanbul was the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman empires.
Best Things to Do in Istanbul
A city in a continental crossroads, Istanbul is an unusual and delightfully unexpected mix of European and Middle Eastern cultures.
The city has been the epicenter of several empires, which is why you’ll still find Egyptian obelisks, the Roman Hippodrome and the Byzantine mosque, Hagia Sophia. Next to these historic monuments, you’ll see modern skyscrapers, nightclubs and a shopping haven, the Grand Bazaar.
Fun Fact: Copenhagen is home to Bakken, the oldest amusement park in the world. The park was opened in 1583, and you can ride a wooden roller coaster that has been in operation since 1932.
Best Things to Do in Copenhagen
One of the greenest cities in the world, Copenhagen is all about developing and using technology to get us back to basics. This is why there are seemingly more bikes than cars on the road and why you’ll find urban green spaces scattered around.
But that doesn’t mean the city isn’t full of history. The most popular attractions are the colorful Nyhavn neighborhood, where you can see the iconic rows of houses by the river and the Statue of the Little Mermaid. There’s also the Frederiksstaden, an 18th century district where the royal Amalienborg Palace is located. Another great place to visit is Tivoli Gardens, another historic amusement park located right within the city.
Population: 1.47 million
Fun Fact: There are more than 60 beer gardens in Munich, which is not surprising given that the city is the home of Oktoberfest.
Best Things to Do in Munich
Foreigners outside of Europe mostly know Munich for Oktoberfest, but the city is incredible at any time of year. That's especially true since beer is a big part of the local culture, so you’re always guaranteed a biergarten experience.
When you’re not quenching your thirst, you can visit the central square of Marienplatz and see the Old Town’s historic architecture.
Population: 3.65 million
Fun Fact: Germans are avid supporters of the opera. This is evidenced by the fact that Berlin is the only city on the planet where you’ll find three operating opera houses.
Best Things to Do in Berlin
In what other city in the world can you find world-famous nightclubs that don’t close for entire days as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site made of museums?
The German capital is a city with a painful past. But rather than trying to sweep it under the rug, it displays it front and center. Historic sites that no one should miss include the sombre Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Berlin Wall and the Brandenburg Gate.
19. The Azores
Population: 245, 766
Fun Fact: About a third of the world’s cetacean species pass through the Azores during their migration, making the archipelago an amazing whale- and dolphin-watching destination.
Best Things to Do in the Azores
Up until a few years ago, many tourists hadn’t even heard of the Azores. Now, it seems like this group of islands is what everyone is dreaming about.
Volcanic in nature, the Azores are full of untamed wild beauty, with deep valleys, tall waterfalls and hidden beaches. The largest island is Sao Miguel, where you’ll find the Sete Cidades volcanic crater.
Population: 1.76 million
Fun Fact: Budapest’s Dohány Street Synagogue, known as the Great Synagogue, is the largest synagogue in all of Europe.
Best Things to Do in Budapest
Budapest is an astonishing city that is often overlooked for Western European capitals. But that’s a loss for anyone who skips it and a gain for those wise enough to visit.
Go up to the top of Fisherman’s Bastion to see the red Hungarian Parliament sitting on one side of the Danube River and the Buda Castle on the other. After a long day of sightseeing, you can rest at one of Budapest’s thermal baths, which the city is famous for.
Fun Fact: The Royal National City Park is the only national urban park located in a capital city in the world.
Best Things to Do in Stockholm
Stockholm is so clean and organized, it’s almost difficult to believe it’s not an amusement park. A place of innovation and design, you’ll find futuristic buildings, bikes everywhere and many scattered parks.
For some history, visit the Old Town, which offers the typical cobblestone streets of European cities. Other top attractions include the Royal Palace and the Nobel Museum. Don’t leave without getting on a boat and sailing through the city’s canals.
Fun Fact: Dublin is home to the Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub which has been open since 1198.
Best Things to Do in Dublin
Dublin may not be the biggest European capital, but it’s one of its funnest and most unique. Locals are known for their friendliness and welcoming attitude (which we can’t really say for every place on this list). Music, singing and drinking are ways of celebrating the good or dealing with the bad. Dublin is also renowned for its literary legacy, as many Irish authors like Oscar Wilde and James Joyce spent time in the city.
Things to do include the National Gallery of Ireland, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Temple Bar district.
Population: 3.22 million
Fun Fact: Madrid’s El Retiro park has the world’s only statue of the devil. Depicting Satan’s fall from heaven, the “Fountain of the Fallen Angel” is especially interesting for a historically Catholic country like Spain.
Best Things to Do in Madrid
We struggle to think of something Madrid doesn’t have. There are plenty of sprawling green parks like El Retiro, world class museums, nightlife that doesn’t even start until after 11 p.m., beautiful architecture everywhere you turn and countless shopping districts.
You can add to that all of the mouth-watering Spanish food you could ever want. No matter where you are, you’ll find tapas, wine and churros. As if Madrid wasn’t cool enough already, it’s also one of the sunniest European capitals.
Population: 1.9 million
Fun Fact: Vienna’s Wiener Riesenrad is the oldest operating Ferris wheel on the planet. It was built in 1897.
Best Things to Do in Vienna
Beautiful Vienna is a city of music, museums and sachertorte, a rich chocolate cake that you eat with coffee.
The Austrian capital is home to many world-class museums, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Natural History Museum. Visiting the imperial palaces of the Hapsburgs is a must, as is spending an evening at the Vienna State Opera. After all, the city was home to both Mozart and Beethoven.
Fun Fact: Mark Anthony gave Cyprus to Cleopatra as a gift. Talk about entitlement!
Best Things to Do in Cyprus
This island nation sits at a perfectly strategic location in the Mediterranean Sea, as a stopping point between Europe, Asia and Africa.
As can be expected, you’ll find more beaches than you could possibly visit as well as several Greek ruins. Make sure you plan to go to the UNESCO-recognized Archaeological Park of Kato Paphos, which has ruins from the fourth century B.C.
Fun Fact: Athens is the oldest capital city in Europe.
Best Things to Do in Athens
The Greek capital is full of ancient history, with the imposing Acropolis defining the city’s skyline. It was here that democracy was invented, but far from being snobbish because of their history, Greeks tend to be friendly and welcoming.
Of course, enjoying Greek food will consume much of your time, as will taking leisurely walks around the historic parts of the city. Make sure you visit the National Archaeological Museum, the Temple of Olympian Zeus and the Ancient Agora.
Fun Fact: Venice is made up of 118 islands. Since no cars are allowed, you can only get from one island to another by foot or by boat/gondola.
Best Things to Do in Venice
Once a powerful empire, Venice’s mighty past is evident in the richness of its palaces, the opulence of its churches and the quality of its handcrafts.
Walking around the city is a pastime in itself, as you’ll cross small bridges that provide gorgeous scenes of the canals. Spend some time in Piazza San Marco, go up the Campanile tower for panoramic views of the city and visit the island of Murano to buy some unique glass souvenirs.
The city has become known for its overtourism, but it continues to be one of the most well-worthy destinations on Earth — just make sure you visit responsibly and are considerate of its residents.
Country: Czech Republic
Population: 1.31 million
Fun Fact: Prague Castle holds the Guinness World Record for being the largest castle in the world.
Best Things to Do in Prague
Prague is two worlds within one city. In the historic center, you’ll find the capital of the former kingdom of Bohemia. The Medieval charm of this part of the city is quite intact, with the Old Town Square providing typical cobblestone streets, baroque buildings and the famous Astronomical Clock. Here, you’ll also find Charles Bridge, which provides views of the impressive Prague Castle.
The other side of the city holds vestiges of the country’s past under Soviet occupation. The buildings are grey, and the architecture is decidedly less pleasing to the eye. But this side of the city is still worth visiting, as it holds the everyday experiences of its residents. You’ll find cheap, local restaurants, cool bars and even some underground nightclubs.
9. Amalfi Coast
Fun Fact: Jackie Kennedy, Sophia Loren and Audrey Hepburn visited Capri and bought sandals, a famous product of the town. You can still buy a pair from Amedeo Canfora, where Jackie Kennedy had hers custom made.
Best Things to Do in the Amalfi Coast
Drive along the Amalfi Coast, and you’ll get almost uninterrupted views of green hills rolling into the ocean and towns carved into the side of mountains.
Made up of several municipalities, this expansive coastline is worthy of several visits, especially since it's one of the best beach destinations in the world. The U.S. News report identifies visiting the Emerald Grotto, hiking the Vallone delle Ferriere trail and seeing the waterfalls of Marmorata as must-dos.
Fun Fact: Santorini’s original name was Kalliste, which means “the most beautiful one.”
Best Things to Do in Santorini
The cycladic houses of Santorini have become the poster image for Greece. Who hasn’t dreamed of seeing the iconic white houses with blue roofs with their own eyes?
But Santorini is not just a pretty place with no soul. The island has local wineries that you can visit, black sand beaches and a large volcanic caldera that offers views and outdoors activities.
Country: The Netherlands
Fun Fact: With 165 canals, Amsterdam actually has more canals than Venice.
Best Things to Do in Amsterdam
Crossed by hundreds of canals (literally) and adorned with 17th century architecture, Amsterdam is a city where you’ll want to take your time.
As far as attractions go, there are many museums to choose from, including the Van Gogh museum, the Rijksmuseum and the Anne Frank House. You can also plan a boat tour through the city, which we especially recommend at night.
But the one thing you can’t neglect to do is to rent a bike and experience the city the way most locals love to traverse it.
6. Swiss Alps
Fun Fact: At 15,202-feet tall, Monte Rosa is the highest peak in the Swiss Alps and the second highest in all the Alps.
Best Things to Do in the Swiss Alps
This distinctive region of Switzerland is known around the world for its world-class skiing, idyllic mountainside towns and breathtaking lakes.
If you visit during winter, activities are a no brainer, with numerous spots for snowboarding, skiing and all winter sports. At the end of a day in the sun, you can sit back in your chalet and enjoy some raclette or fondue. If you visit during summer, you can go swimming or hiking.
Population: 1.62 million
Fun Fact: Still unfinished, La Sagrada Familia has taken longer to build than the Egyptian pyramids.
Best Things to Do in Barcelona
Arguably Spain’s best city, Barcelona has some of the most unique architecture in the world. This is in part thanks to Antoni Gaudi, who gave the city iconic landmarks like Park Guell and La Sagrada Familia.
The Gothic Quarter is one of the most popular in the city. Here, you’ll find landmarks, shops and restaurants. You should also make sure you leave some time to visit the beaches and have a picnic at Parc de la Ciutadella.
Fun Fact: Always ahead of the game, Florence was the first city in the continent to have paved roads, with the first paved streets dating back to 1339.
Best Things to Do in Florence
The Medicis ruled their kingdom from Florence, which is the reason this small city of less than 500,000 people is one of the world centers for art and culture. Famous galleries include the Gallerie dell’Accademia, where Michelangelo’s David resides, and the Uffizi Gallery.
The city is filled with beautiful churches that you should visit, but they’re all overshadowed by the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, whose Duomo provides the best views of the city. Of course, shopping in the small stands in Ponte Vecchio and looking for leather goods is a must.
Population: 2.87 million
Fun Fact: Rome has more than 900 churches.
Best Things to Do in Rome
Italians are so proud of Rome, their nickname for it is “the Capital of the World.” You can resent them a little, but you can’t deny that Rome was indeed the capital of the western world at some point, hence why all roads did, indeed, lead to it.
Today, ancient ruins like the Colosseum and the Roman Forum can be appreciated, and you can also see beautiful architectural landmarks like the Trevi Fountain. Even though it’s technically within the foreign state of Holy See, St. Peter’s Basilica is still one of the most astonishing things you’ll see in Rome.
Country: United Kingdom
Population: 8.98 million
Fun Fact: The name of the landmark most people call Big Ben is actually the Elizabeth Tower. Big Ben is the clock that is inside the tower.
Best Things to Do in London
First-timers in London are always surprised by how eclectic the city is. You’ll see incredible historic sites like Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace surrounded by modern buildings.
This is the city of high tea and punk, of world-class museums and dingy pubs. And yet all of its contradicting elements work together to create a unique feeling of history and modernity that is absolutely exciting.
Population: 2.16 million
Fun Fact: The Louvre is the largest art museum in the world and has over 38,000 pieces in its collection.
Best Things to Do in Paris
Is it cliche to name Paris the best place to visit in Europe? Maybe, but it’s also really the only correct option.
Some people think Paris is overrated, and if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of visiting the City of Lights, just know that they’re wrong. To make sure that you’re not disillusioned, go to all the necessary landmarks like the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. But also take the time to get lost within the city just to see where you end up.
If you want a truly Parisian experience, wake up early on a Sunday to get to a patisserie before they close, then head to the nearest park — there are plenty of gorgeous ones all over the city — and spend the afternoon reading and napping on the grass.