Europe offers the opportunity to experience ancient history, diverse cultures, fabulous art, beautiful scenery and fantastic food. The continent is home to 44 countries and hundreds of cities that offer many unique experiences. Whether you are looking to embrace history, art and culture, enjoy adventurous activities or relax and unwind, then you are spoilt for choice when searching for the very best cities to visit in Europe.
There are so many amazing places to visit in Europe, so to create a list of the Top 5 or Top 10 cities to visit in Europe is pretty impossible. Each city has its own unique appeal and many diverse activities to enjoy.
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1. Paris, France
Paris is a stunning, sophisticated city and one of the most visited cities in Europe for a good reason. We enjoyed exploring the winding streets on our Paris city break, tasting excellent French cuisine, enjoying the shops, fashion, café culture, and many beautiful parks.
Must-see activities in Europe’s greatest city include the iconic Eiffel Tower, Louvre Art Gallery and Notre Dame cathedral, as well as a boat trip on the River Seine. Montmartre is a traditional Parisian neighbourhood located in the hills just north of Paris. Enjoy the cobbled streets, Place du Tertre (where artists paint), Sacre Coeur Basilica and fantastic views across the city.
2. Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is a unique city located in both Europe and Asia, offering a rich and diverse history and culture. Visit the Old Town to see the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque and The Grand Bazaar, where you can explore the Spice Market, enjoy some Turkish Delight and barter for some souvenirs.
Take a tour of Topkapi Palace during your Istanbul city break, where you can learn how the Ottoman sultans lived in luxury with their harem.
There are also many modern attractions to see in Istanbul too. Galataport is a new major port complex on the Karaköy coastline, offering breathtaking scenery, modern architecture and restaurants, shops, arts and culture.
3. Florence, Italy
Charming Florence is the capital of Tuscany, home of Renaissance history, art and architecture and one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Don’t miss the breathtaking Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Michelangelo’s David and the Uffizi Gallery, then head to the medieval Ponte Vecchio bridge overlooking the River Arno.
Boboli Gardens is well worth a visit during your Florence city break. These traditional Italian gardens (behind Pitti Palace) offer a beautiful green space with fountains, statues and an amphitheatre.
Florence has a much slower pace than bigger cities, so you can relax and enjoy Italian gelato and watch the world go by.
4. Barcelona, Spain
A Barcelona city break is diverse, vibrant and exciting, ranking one of the top five cities to visit. The city has a mild climate year-round, perfect for enjoying the fabulous beaches, parks, architecture, arts, football and tapas.
Admire Gaudi’s masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia (one of the most spectacular monuments you will ever see in Europe), as well as Park Guell and Casa Battlo.
Explore the meandering streets in the Gothic Quarter and bustling Las Ramblas area, with opportunities to sample excellent fresh food at La Boqueria market. Relax at Barcelona’s beautiful beaches, enjoy a football match at the iconic Nou Stadium or head to the historic Montjuic region.
5. Rome, Italy
Rome combines a rich history, archaeology, art, religion and culture with fabulous food, outdoor markets and beautiful piazzas. The iconic Colosseum dating back to 70 AD, is the largest amphitheatre globally and a must-see attraction during your Rome city break. We also enjoyed the ancient Roman Forum, unique Pantheon building and infamous Trevi Fountain.
Vatican City is a unique experience, particularly the Sistine Chapel, where you can admire Michelangelo’s most famous masterpiece. The beauty of a Rome city break is that wherever you go, you will come across a piazza, park, café, museum or monument, so it’s a city full of surprises in one of the best countries to visit in Europe.
6. London, UK
London ranks high in terms of the most visited places in Europe. Steeped in history, art and culture, home to the Queen and featuring many excellent museums, parks, markets, shopping and entertainment opportunities, it is easy to understand why.
Explore the Westminster area and Buckingham Palace, including Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament and St James’ Park. Head to Covent Garden to enjoy lunch, craft markets and street performers, followed by shopping in Oxford Street and Harrods.
The West End is home to London’s top theatres and a great way to round off a perfect city break.
7. Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen is ideal for a short city break and is rated as one of the coolest cities to visit in Europe. The city has a rich history, fabulous fine dining and a beautiful waterfront.
Head to City Hall Square to admire the grand architecture, wander down Stroget (a quaint shopping street) to the harbour at Nyhaven, where there are many great restaurants classic waterfront houses, and you can take a canal cruise.
The Langelinie area is home to the famous statue of the Little Mermaid, and there are many palaces and castles to see (Amalienborg Palace Square and Rosenborg Castle topped our list).
8. Venice, Italy
The Floating City is an unbelievable place and one of the must-see and top places in Europe to visit. Venice offers a unique and memorable city break, built on 118 islands in the Venetian Lagoon, separated by canals and linked by 400 bridges. You can wander the meandering streets and alleyways for hours, admire the grand palaces and ancient churches as well as enjoy the canals via gondola.
St Mark’s Basilica, Doge Palace and St Mark’s Square are not to be missed but head there later in the day to miss the peak visiting times.
Visit Venice during the Carnival (February/early March) if you can; this enchanting festival involves parades, concerts, markets, ornate Venetian masks and fabulous costumes.
9. Budapest, Hungary
Budapest is one of the most elegant and beautiful cities in Europe and a cheap place to travel to Europe. Split by the Danube River, the historic cities of Buda and Pest lie opposite each other.
Buda is situated in the hills and home to the historic Royal Palace, Buda Castle and the beautiful Fisherman’s Bastion monument overlooking the Danube. The impressive Parliament Building in Pest features Gothic style architecture and is a masterpiece not to be missed.
Budapest is also famous for its thermal springs and spas, with Szechenyi Thermal Baths the most popular venue.
10. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Picturesque Amsterdam has beautiful canals and architecture, colourful flower markets, and fascinating museums, so it inevitably is one of the most visited places in Europe. The Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh museums are unique, and Anne Frank’s house is a thought-provoking trip into the past. There are many parks and green spaces you can enjoy during your Amsterdam city break; hiring a bike is a great way to explore.
Café culture is very popular here! Stroopwaffels (crunchy waffles with sweet fillings/toppings) and Poffertjes (small, puffed pancakes with butter and icing sugar) are not to be missed!
11. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Dubrovnik (known as the Pearl of the Adriatic) is one of the most amazing places to visit in Europe. This coastal city, surrounded by spectacular city walls and forts, is located on the shimmering Adriatic Sea. Enjoy the view over the old town as you take a walk around the city walls. You can also take a cable car or hike up Mount Srd for even more amazing views.
If you are looking to relax, then there are plenty of tranquil beaches and Lokrum Island – a beautiful nature reserve just 10-minutes via boat from Dubrovnik.
Read More: Croatia Landmarks
12. Vienna, Austria
Vienna is a city that never stops surprising you and rates high as one of the best places to visit in Europe. The City of Music is famous for its majestic castles, palaces and gardens.
You will be amazed by the beautiful architecture (Schonbrunn Palace and Hofburg Palace are breathtaking). Vienna State Opera is considered one of the best opera houses in the world, so it’s worth booking tickets well in advance.
Café culture is extremely popular, and coffee houses are extremely elegant, so enjoy delicious coffee, cakes and desserts on your Vienna city break.
13. Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik is a city of outstanding natural beauty and a bucket list European city to visit. The city has stunning waterfalls, hot springs, thermal baths and geothermal pools, with the Golden Circle and Blue Lagoon offering incredible experiences and beautiful scenery.
Reykjavik also has many excellent museums, stunning churches (don’t miss Hallgrimskirkja near the harbour) and a thriving art and culture scene.
This city break also offers the opportunity to see the remarkable Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) if you visit during the winter months, truly a once in a lifetime experience.
14. Berlin, Germany
Berlin is a great weekend city break and offers a combination of contemporary art and cool buildings with historic architecture and a unique history.
The iconic Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag Building is stunning day or night. Take a boat trip on the River Spree and see the remains of the famous Berlin Wall across the city.
There are hundreds of parks, gardens and cafes located across the city, offering perfect opportunities to relax and recharge your batteries. Potsdam is well worth a visit, just southwest of Berlin, famous for palaces, royal parks, craft shops, cafes and the picturesque Dutch Quarter.
15. Dublin, Ireland
The capital of Ireland is known as one of the nicest cities to visit in Europe. Dublin is surrounded by mountains, located by Dublin Bay, with the River Liffey running through the city’s heart.
There are lots of opportunities to explore art and history as you wander the city’s streets. Highlights include the National Art Gallery, Merrion Square and Gardens, Grafton Street for lunch, Christ Church Cathedral and Trinity College (Ireland’s oldest university).
Don’t miss Howth Head and Dublin Bay for stunning beaches, coastal walks and the majestic Malahide Castle and Gardens to complete a perfect Dublin city break.
16. Stockholm, Sweden
One of the most beautiful capital cities in Europe, and before you leave, you will be planning your next Stockholm city break! Stockholm combines contemporary art, shopping and dining opportunities with regal palaces, gardens, quaint bridges and the old town. The city is spread across an archipelago of 14 islands in the Baltic Sea and is often referred to as the Venice of the North.
Don’t miss a visit to the Vasa and Nobel museums and the Royal Palace, then take a boat trip to explore the islands (Grinda is a bathing paradise in the summer, and Svartso is a hidden gem for lovers of nature).
17. Prague, Czech Republic
The charming capital city of the Czech Republic, known as the City of 100 Spires, rates highly in terms of the best cities in Europe. Prague is a compact city that you can get around easily on foot and with lots of beautiful Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance architecture to see.
We loved spending time in the Old Town and enjoyed seeing the Town Square, Astronomical Clock and Town Hall, as well as walking across the Vltava River on the medieval Charles Bridge, where you can catch a glimpse of the fairytale Prague Castle overlooking the city.
18. Bruges, Belgium
Bruges is almost like entering a fairytale, with ornate houses, cobbled streets and a myriad of interlinking canals. It is a city filled with old-world charm. The historic centre of Bruges is well worth spending a day exploring on foot, and you can also take a canal boat tour.
The Markt (market square), Belfort Tower and atmospheric Begijnhof (monastery) are popular places. As you head toward these areas, you will see countless historic buildings, squares, churches, and cathedrals. Don’t forget to have Belgian hot chocolate and waffles at one of the many great cafes or restaurants before you leave!
19. Annecy, France
Annecy is in the Rhone-Alpes region of France, located on Lake Annecy and overlooks snow-capped mountains. Stroll around the old town with canals, quays and colourful buildings, and visit Rue Royale (shopping area) as well as the Imperial Palace and Cathedral of Saint-Pierre.
Annecy is one of the largest lakes in France and is a dream setting for a city break, with many water activities, beach areas and parks to enjoy. If you visit Annecy in the winter, you have many options for winter sports in the area, such as skiing, snowboarding, canyoning and many other adventure sports.
20. Porto, Portugal
Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal, located on the Douro River and offers an authentic experience of Portuguese city life. The quaint cobbled streets, traditional architecture, intricate azulejo tiles, numerous monuments and beautiful scenery provide true escapism.
Cross the Ponte de Dom Luís I bridge that links Porto and Gaia for amazing views, enjoy the lively atmosphere around the historic Ribeira district and climb the iconic Torre dos Clerigos (75m bell tower). The Mercado do Bolhão (market) and Rua do Almada (shopping area) are well worth a visit.