Choosing where you’ll go depends on when you want to visit and what kind of trip you’re after. Discover the place for you with this complete list of the best cities to visit in Europe.
Despite its somber history, Krakow has come back stronger than ever. In fact, it’s now considered one of the best European cities to visit! Its history is incredibly important and visiting Auschwitz is an absolute must-do while you’re there. However, there’s also much to be celebrated in this wonderful city.
For example, the beautiful historical buildings, pretty squares, street musicians, murals, and castles. Visit in winter, for the true fairytale experience, with snow on the rooftops, twinkling Christmas lights, and roasted chestnuts.
Day Trip to Zalipie
Depending on how many days you’re in Krakow, we recommend joining a tour and doing a half-day trip to Zalipie. This cute village is famous for its artwork painted on the houses and folk culture.
Every year, there is a cottage painting competition in Zalipie, with locals competing for the most original and artistic folk paintings. Book your tour to Zalipie village.
Not only is it one of Spain’s most authentic and traditional cities, but it’s also home to some of the most spectacular Moorish architecture. The most notable place for this is the Alcazar: a Moorish palace that’s been beautifully preserved.
Spend half a day wandering around the palace, absorbing all the intricate details of the tilework and wooden carvings. Outside of the palace, you can discover the immaculate gardens with their manicured hedges, unique flowers, and vibrant orange trees.
Built in the 5th century BC, you can witness it in all its glory from many places around the city. In fact, the terraces and balconies of restaurants, bars, and apartments are all set up for viewing the Acropolis. So even if you’re in the most modern part of town, you can still see the ancient history of Athens.
Cafe culture is also huge in Athens. You’ll see people enjoying the terraces of bars and restaurants, and enjoying the long warm summer days. In the evening, this culture continues to rooftop bars, where you can get fantastic views of the city and the Acropolis under a dusky pink sky.
Surprisingly, Athens has also become a hub for street art, so explore all the little corners of the streets and discover the meanings behind some interesting murals.
Utrecht is a smaller (and less touristy!) version of Amsterdam. It’s kept its Dutch authenticity, with its beautiful townhouse facades and canals, making it one of the best cities to visit in Europe! Get lost among the gorgeous cobblestone streets, with pastel-painted houses, pretty flower gardens, and Dutch bikes parked out front.
Make sure to also head down to Oude Gracht (the old canal) with its quays and warehouses. Many of these buildings have been turned into urban dining spaces with terraces along the waterside where you can sit and enjoy the views. You can even hire an electric boat to discover the city via its canals (a sustainable way to travel!).
To get up high, climb the 465 steps to the top of the Dom tower (14th-century gothic church). It costs 9 EUR (8.85 USD) for entry, which is well worth it for the panoramic viewing platform at the top, where you can look out over the city.
Did you know? The famous children’s book author Dick Bruna (writer of Miffy) was born in Utrecht. As the Miffy books became so famous, you’ll find the white rabbit illustration all around the city, including on traffic lights! There’s even a museum dedicated to Miffy.
Visiting Istanbul is a sensory experience like no other. Everywhere you look, there’s color, from the markets with their vibrant textiles and spices to the painted houses of Balat.
Uniquely located on the cusp of both Europe and Asia, the city acts like a bridge between two continents, combining the cultures of both. The same goes for architecture; you’ll find extraordinary mosques and palaces (decorated with the finest tilework) next to cobbled streets and French-style cafes.
Spend a couple of days visiting the most important religious buildings in Istanbul, exploring the diverse neighborhoods, and shopping for traditional Turkish produce in the Grand Bazaar. Undoubtedly, Istanbul is one of the best cities to visit in Europe!
6. Lisbon, Portugal (Best European Cities to Visit!)
Lisbon is infectious and known as one of the best cities to visit in Europe. In fact, travelers love it so much that it’s become a hub for digital nomads looking to call the city home.
At first glance, the city is like a smaller San Francisco with its steep hills, trams, industrial bridges, and waterside location. However, look a little closer, and you’ll find all the most beautiful parts of Portuguese culture.
For example, Fado singers in small bars, the white and blue Azulejos tiles, and the freshly baked Portuguese custard tarts.
Spend your days in Lisbon enjoying the outdoor way of life, listening to live music by the water, wandering to all the beautiful viewpoints and bridges, and exploring the cute boutique shops, libraries, and bookstores.
Tip: If you have time, take a day trip to the nearby fairytale landscape of Sintra. This colorfully painted castle sits high on the hill overlooking the gorgeous Portuguese countryside. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site and a top thing to see while visiting Lisbon.
7. Assisi, Italy
Assisi is the gem of Italy: undiscovered, underrated, and easily one of the best cities to visit in Europe! Nestled in the beautiful region of Umbria (Tuscany’s lesser-known neighbor), the ancient city is an important pilgrimage site, home to some stunning religious buildings and festivals.
The most important building of all is the St Francis Basilica which, unusually, is comprised of two cathedrals built on top of each other.
If you’re visiting in May, you’ll also have the opportunity to see the Calendimaggio festival, when locals dress up in costume from medieval times and take to the labyrinth-like streets of Assisi. Visiting Assisi is like being transported back in time!
Explore the Region of Umbria
Assisi is definitely a city to visit in its own right, but it’s also a great jumping-off point to explore the rest of the region, home to beautiful lakes, waterfalls, castles, wineries, and viewpoints. In fact, one of the best viewpoints in the whole region is just outside of the city. Sit up here, overlooking the beautiful valley with wild horses roaming all around.
Paris is known worldwide as ‘the city of love’, and there’s no doubt that you’ll fall in love with this fantastic city. As such, it’s only fitting that the capital city of France would make it to the list of best cities to visit in Europe. Plus, it has the beauty, history, and food to back it up.
Activities in Paris
While you’re in Paris, make sure to explore the charming district of Montmartre, home to pastel-colored houses, cute balconies, and the remarkable Sacre-Coeur (which, from its high position, has incredible views of the city). It’s also the birthplace of the Moulin Rouge, and you can still go and see the show today. However, make sure to book in advance as it sells out quickly.
See the most famous sights in Paris, like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Notre Dame. Alternatively, for a unique perspective, book a boat ride along the Seine, enjoying some traditional French food and a glass of champagne as you go—ooh la la! Book your boat ride.
The capital city of Spain, Madrid, boasts a million-and-one things to do. Culture vultures can delight in all the fantastic museums. For example; the Prado Museum, which is one of the most famous art museums in the world. On the other hand, if you’re a shopper, Madrid will have you hooked, with its great malls and its fantastic vintage and antique markets that are held at the weekends.
What’s unique about Madrid is that each neighborhood will give you a distinctly different feeling. From the lively bars and nightlife of Chueca to the narrow streets and sloping hills of authentic La Latina. Wherever you go, exciting spaces have been transformed into restaurants, bars, and experiences, or stunning rooftop bars where you’ll get great views of the cityscape.
10. Valletta, Malta
Valletta is a historical gem, often skipped in favor of the coast and islands of Malta. However, it’s one of the best cities to visit in Europe and a great weekend trip in its own right! Most unique of all, the entire city is a UNESCO world heritage site, protected as one of the first planned cities in Europe!
The ancient town has some of the most magical streets to explore, home to the token limestone townhouses with their colorfully painted window boxes. It also used to be a former British colony, so you’ll still find a lot of British influence. There are even red telephone boxes!
Because Valletta is hilly, there are beautiful viewpoints everywhere you go. All you need to do is go up! Head for the Upper and Lower Gardens for great views over the city rooftops and the sea below. Just across the water, you’ll see the stunning city of Birgu.
11. Venice, Italy (One of the Best Cities to Visit in Europe!)
Venice is one of the most beautiful cities to visit in Europe and arguably one of the most famous. The city is effectively a floating island, built across a network of canals and recognized for the gondola as its primary mode of transportation.
There’s something so romantic about this city, whether you’re wandering its maze of cobbled streets, being serenaded as you float on the canals, or eating delicious pasta next to a beautiful piazza.
Whether you want an action-packed few days of sightseeing or a relaxed time eating Italian food—there’s something for every kind of traveler in Venice. We recommend staying close to the city’s center down a quiet side street in a traditional boutique hotel for the true Venice experience.
12. Copenhagen, Denmark
Maybe one of the coolest cities to visit in Europe, Copenhagen is effortlessly chic. Denmark is thought to be one of the happiest countries in the world. It’s certainly got an infectious atmosphere, with its great coffee culture, delicious brunch cafes, and pastry shops that you can cycle between on your very own food tour.
Head to the picturesque area of Nyhavn (the most iconic part of Copenhagen), where you’ll find the traditional riverside area with its beautiful Danish houses. Closeby is the famous statue of the Little Mermaid, which is now over 100 years old! From here, jump on a boat tour along the canals to see the city and learn more about its history.
Tip: For the city’s best views, go to the round tower. This structure is unusual in that it doesn’t have stairs but a sloping ramp that winds up to the top. It’s said that horse and carriage would even have come up here at one point.
The Czech Republic is known for having the most castles in the world, and Prague (the capital city) is said to have the largest. This castle even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for its size! Inside the castle, discover the Golden Lane (a cobbled street that will take you back in time), the iconic St Vitus Cathedral, and the Royal Palace, used by Czech kings and queens throughout the ages.
However, there’s so much more to explore in Prague than just the castle. This fairytale city has to be on your list of cities to visit in Europe, with its picturesque streets, gothic architecture, and UNESCO-protected Jewish Quarter.
14. Porto, Portugal
Lisbon is usually the preferred destination choice in Portugal, but we think Porto deserves a moment of appreciation. The city might be smaller and lesser known, but it packs just as much punch. Much like Lisbon, it has all the wow factor of incredible steel bridges, fantastic viewpoints, and hillside dining.
Porto has the bonus of being home to port cellars, and Livraria Lello (a bookstore famous from Harry Potter). There are so many fantastic things to see in the city; travelers will never get bored.
Got a bit more time? The city hugs the banks of the beautiful Douro River, which worms its way into the nearby Douro Valley. This valley is home to all the vineyards and wineries of Portugal and is absolutely breathtaking! Book a tour to the Douro Valley, including a river cruise, wine tasting, and lunch.
Of all the cities in Europe to visit, Budapest tops the list for many. This wonderful eastern European city has a bit of everything: fun ‘ruin’ bars, converted warehouse spaces, art, fascinating history, towering bridges, and stunning ancient buildings.
Budapest is also great to visit in any season. For example, in the winter, there are great festive markets and the steaming hot water of the famous thermal baths. The most popular ones are Rudas, Gellert, and Széchenyi. Because of its popularity, make sure to book ahead to avoid disappointment. Book your spa tour here.
There’s something special about Amsterdam, which is why travelers return time and time again! It’s easy to see why, with its cobbled streets, charming canals, trendy cafes, vintage shops, and cycling culture.
Hire a bike and do as the locals do, cycling among the city’s best sights, like Vondel Park and 9 Straatjes (the most traditional and photogenic streets in Amsterdam). Afterward, enjoy the many famous museums in the city—whether it’s the Van Gogh Museum or the contemporary Moco Museum.
Got more time? Take a day trip to some of the most beautiful villages in the Netherlands, where you’ll find traditional windmills, cute houses, and canals. If you’re visiting from mid-April to early May, you’ll also have the chance to see the tulip fields. Find the best place to see tulips in the Netherlands (without tourists!).
17. Edinburgh, Scotland
Historical Edinburgh is the birthplace of Harry Potter and one of the most magical cities to visit in Europe. The city feels pulled straight out of the pages of a fairytale with its regal buildings, castles, and dark stone. Walk among the hilly streets, listening to the deafening sound of the bagpipes and stopping for a traditional Scottish breakfast!
The city has such a vibrant history and is mainly known for its network of underground tunnels, earning it a reputation for ghost stories. We recommend joining a historical tour to learn more about Edinburgh or, if you’re brave enough, a ghost tour for an unusual way to get to know the city.
Best of all, you’re never far away from the spectacular countryside. Just a short walk from the city center, discover St Arthur’s Seat, a huge hill that you can climb for panoramic views across Edinburgh and the wild and rugged countryside of Scotland.
Its location on the coast of Spain means travelers get the perfect mix of city break and beach trips; it offers the excitement of bars, restaurants, museums, and activities but with the relaxation of sunbathing and sea swimming.
By day, spend your morning wandering the ancient streets of the historic center, where you’ll find Roman walls, Moorish architecture, and vibrant food markets.
In the afternoon, hire a bike and cycle the 9km length of Turia Park, full of beautiful palm trees, water features, and orange trees. You’ll also find the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, featured in movies like Tomorrowland and Westworld. Get outside and enjoy the 300+ days of sunshine in beautiful Valencia! Find your hotel in Valencia.
19. London, England
Red phone boxes, the King’s Guard, high tea, and Paddington Bear; welcome to London, the capital city of England! London is one of the best cities to visit in Europe, famous worldwide for its remarkable buildings, rows of fancy houses, and, of course, for being home to the royal family.
However, there’s so much more to London than just beautiful parks, royal homes, and cups of tea. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find a gritty, underground scene in districts like Shoreditch, Peckham, or Camden with cutting-edge music, art, bars, and restaurants. Whether it’s drinking on top of a rooftop at Frank’s Cafe, vintage shopping at Camden Market, or dancing around the piano at Piano Works, London will be a trip to remember.
20. Vienna, Austria
Vienna is not only the capital of Austria, but it used to be the capital of the entire Austro-Hungarian empire. Unsurprisingly, it is one of the most regal cities to visit in Europe, and was once the home of Beethoven and Mozart.
Days in Vienna are spent wandering the cobblestone streets bordered by Baroque buildings and stunning architectural gems like Schönbrunn Palace and St. Stephen’s Cathedral. In the evening, treat yourself to a night at the opera or dance the Viennese Waltz at one of the city’s glamorous balls.
Although Vienna has unique glamour, luxury, and history, there’s also an edgy urban scene if you know where to look, from cool concept stores to fun speakeasies.
Best Time to Visit Vienna
The city is an all-year-round destination. In the fall, discover beautiful parks and wine taverns (it’s a huge wine destination and one of the only cities to have vineyards within the city itself!). There are fantastic Christmas markets in the winter, and in the spring/summer, there’s a great outdoor cafe culture.