30 Most Beautiful Cities in Europe
The nicest cities in the world? You find most of them in Europe. Nowhere around the globe can you find such a variety of culture and architecture on such a small area of land. Although I’ve traveled to multiple continents and countries, I still find that my favorite places are on my home continent. That’s why I thought I’d share my list for the 30 most beautiful cities in Europe to help you plan your next trip!
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Let’s just start close to home in the Netherlands! Our capital is, in fact, the perfect city for a weekend away. The beautiful canals and houses, the world class museums, the nice hotspots: I really love visiting Amsterdam.
If you are there, I recommend taking a trip on the canals with a tour boat. Visit the Rijksmuseum or the nearby Vincent van Gogh museum, and go shopping in the boutiques of the Nine Streets. In the summer you can picnic in the Vondelpark and have a drink in the A’Dam Tower. Real die-hards can even swing on the railing.
Why Edinburgh is not better known as a city trip destination I really do not know; it is such a beautiful city. Very fairytale, and just like walking around in the dark ages. This is where JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series, so how much more magical do you want it to be?
Edinburgh is in Scotland , and although it is not the capital (that goes to Glasgow), it is the best city. Shop on Princess Street, learn more about Medieval history in Mary Kings Close, and of course go to Edinburgh Castle, where you can see the crown jewels. For the best view, climb Arthurs Seat.
Are you surprised London is on my list of favorite cities in Europe? I even lived there fo a while, and I still miss it almost every day. The English capital has something for everyone. For example, as far as I am concerned, you can not skip the main sights, such as Big Ben and Tower Bridge.
But you also want to go to world class museums, which are also completely free. My favorites are Museum of London (an interactive museum about the history of London), National History Museum, and the Victoria & Albert and the British Museum if you love art and antiquity.
Shopping is done either in Shoreditch or in the Covent Garden area. And good food can really go anywhere. Pack a beautiful free view of the city, a (nearly) free bus ride or boat trip, and enjoy my favorite parks in the summer. I could continue for hours!
The smaller York is perhaps the cutest city in England . And that is mainly due to its historic center full of medieval streets. The city is really bursting with history, since the Romans and the Vikings even once lived here. The city still has city walls from the 13th century, and the center is bursting with winding roads and traditional pubs in saggy wooden-framed houses.
Do not forget to pay a visit to the York Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in England. Then enjoy some great museums about Vikings, trains, fossils, and old castles. And, of course, English boutiques really are some of the nicest places to shop, so don’t miss the Shambles! End the day with a delicious pub meal by the fire. Who could ask for a better day?
The most romantic city in Belgium can only be Bruges. I have the idea that Bruges is less known to the Dutch than, for example, Antwerp Ghent, Brussels, but that it should be. If you love that whole fairytale-vibe, then Bruges is really the place to go.
Although I was in Bruges in the summer, it seems just as romantic in the winter. Then medieval center lies under a layer of powder snow, and you can walk hand in hand with your beloved through the most dreamy backdrops. Once you’re too cold to stay outside, warm up together with a cup of hot chocolate (with whipped cream, of course).
Of course, you must visit the most important sights, like the Belfort and the Market, but also visit lesser known things like the excavations in the basement of the Crowne Plaza or the cute Begijnhof. Bruges is known for its many chocolatiers, so it would be a shame to leave the city without having visited a few things to taste, right? I picked up a box of crazy chocolates from Sukerbuyc instead of the more well-known Zwaantje.
You can’t have this kind of list without Paris… I think it is truly the most beautiful European city. Think of its stately white buildings with French wrought-iron balconies, cozy bistros with colorful canopies, and the Seine that flows through the center of it all.
I really can not get enough of Paris and I can also give you a million tips for this city, because I’ve already been at least eight times or so. In terms of sights, you can not skip the famous Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. I found it fun to stay in Montmartre (near the Sacré-Coeur) or in Les Marais, which is full of nice boutiques and cafes.
I do not know how it is with you, but when I see the name “Avignon,” I immediately hear the tune of “Sur le pont d’avignon, on y danse, on y danse” in my head from my French teacher. Nice melody, though.
Avignon is by far not as well known as it should be! The city is beautiful. I discovered when I was there a few years ago. It’s especially famous for the Palais des Papes: the Popes Palace. If you stand in front of it, you’ll be blown away by what you see. This building is the largest Gothic building from the Middle Ages in all of Europe. When the Popes were banished from Rome, Avignon served as their new residence.
But there is much more to see in the city, including the real life Pont d’Avignon. This is officially called the Pont Saint-Bénézet, and it dates from the 12th century. There are only a few arches left, so the bridge stops halfway down the river.
Avignon is the perfect city in France to visit when you are on holiday in Provence, or as a combination trip with cities such as Marseilles and Nice.
The colorful Colmar is located in the North-East of France, in the Alsace region. It is not such a big city, but definitely worth a visit. Because the city is quite north, you drive there in a few hours.
The first thing you will notice about Colmar is that the brightly painted half-timbered houses with their wooden frames look much more German than French. That’s because of its location near the German border. There has always been considerable fighting for this area. It is only since the end of the Second World War that Colmar has officially belonged to France.
The most important thing to do here is simply to stroll around and admire the half-timbered houses from the 15th and 16th centuries. Take a boat trip on the River Lauch, taste one of the Alsatian wines, and visit a flea market in the city.
A list about the most beautiful cities in Europe can not be complete without Barcelona, right? One of my favorite cities, and one where I’ve already been three or four times.
Barcelona is a city that you either love or hate. If you are not well prepared, it can be quite an overwhelming city. Especially with the gigantic crowds of tourists. But it’s really such a beautiful city, with sights such as the magical Sagrada Familia, the gigantic Parc de la Ciutadella, and the beautiful Parc Güell.
Stroll through my favorite neighborhoods: Born and Gotic. Then head downtown for a glass of vermouth and to nibble on some tapas, while you’re considering whether you’re going shopping in one of the nice boutiques or to the beach (Barceloneta) for an open-air movie. Really, Barcelona is such a crazy city for a city trip.
In the center is the absolute highlight of the city: the Real Alcazar. This is the royal palace, which owes its fantastic appearance to a mix of Christian styles and Moorish influences in architecture. But there is much more to see, such as Seville Cathedral and the world-famous Plaza de España.
Stroll through the Barrio Santa Cruz, and rest your weary feet during a dinner with tapas. Did you know that Seville is the birthplace of tapas? It would therefore be a kind of blasphemy not to try them here. If you have more time left, combine your visit with a few days of relaxation in La Donairaor or a day trip to Cordoba.
If you are in the area, you should also visit Granada. This is the most popular place in Spain (book tickets and skip the lines here): The Alhambra. This is a medieval fortress and the last palace of the Moorish rulers. This gigantic complex has beautiful Islamic art.
Also nice is the historic district of Albaicín, full of charming winding streets. From the Mirador de San Nicolás you have a great view over the city. Enjoy the delicious food in Granada, and do not worry: you’ll walk it all off on the hills again.
The Portuguese capital is one of the nicest cities in Europe because of its lovely white houses with orange roof tiles, cozy atmosphere, and that fantastic Portuguese food!
Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Europe. Take one of the old yellow trams and see the center pass by. Go past the main attractions. Visit Torre de Belém, the Monastery of Mosteiro Dos Jeronimos, and the oldest district of Lisbon, Alfama.
Stop in the oldest bookstore in the world, Bertrand. Dive into a fantasy world, while you put your teeth in the most famous Portuguese pastry: Pasteis de Nata (which is best at Pasteis de Belém). If you’ve seen everything in Lisbon, take a day trip to the rain-colored castle of Sintra.
Bern is only the fifth largest city in Switzerland, but it is the capital. Moreover, it is also the most beautiful city in the country. The entire old center is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Climb to the rose garden above the Bärengraben for a great view of the city.
In the old center you can stroll along the River Aare (where you can swim in the summer), or you can dive further into the center and enjoy the many restaurants. I mean … you can’t say “no” to a good cheese fondue right? In winter, the city is still fun! There’s usually some snow, and you can visit the Christmas market. And then you can head to the mountains for some wintry sports.
Together with Paris, I think Rome is the most beautiful city in Europe. There is simply no city that is so spectacular and bursting with tangible history. You can just wander through the cobblestone streets, turn the corner, and spontaneously run into the Trevi Fountain. Or suddenly you look up from your phone and there is the Pantheon. How many places can you say that?
Drive on a Vespa past the Colosseum, discover ancient Roman history in the Roman Forum, or go shopping at one of the famous Italian fashion houses. And if you’ve done all that, it’s time for the real reason you came to Rome: food. Because Italian food is simply the best food in the world, period the end. Lose yourself in Italian wines, sweets, pastas, and cheeses, and then cool down with liters of gelato during the day. Finish your meal with an Italian espresso. Don’t ask for a cappuccino, lest you want to be sent right back home on a plane!
Venice is such a city where you must have go at least once in your life. I’ve been there twice, and when I went for the second time, I thought it would not make such an impression on me anymore … but I was wrong. I thought it was just as special as the first time.
There is just such a magical thing about its rich architecture, and a city completely surrounded by water. Take a boat trip on the water, visit the main sights (the San Marco square and the Rialto Bridge), and especially enjoy all the good food.
What is really nice is a visit to one of the colorful islands in the Venice area. I visited Murano and Burano, and it is generally less crowded there than in Venice itself.
Florence is still such a dreamy city that looks like time has stood still. It was started as a military Roman camp. Because of its convenient location, it soon became a rich trade center.
The Florentine republic was from 1115 to 1531, and since 1434 was ruled by the wealthy Medici family. Under their direction, the city also became a center of art, literature, and architecture. It’s insanely famous for the sheer amount of buildings and works of art from the Renaissance. The most famous building is the Duomo, whose construction began in 1296, and ended only in 1436.
Stroll through the ancient center, visit the richly decorated buildings, walk the Ponte Vecchio (one of the most famous bridges in Italy), and enjoy the divine Italian food.
Copenhagen was the very first city that I visited solo. And it really was a perfect city trip destination, especially for me traveling alone as a woman. Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark, and I’d recommend anywhere from a day to a few days for your trip.
It’s not at all such a city that is bursting with sights. You can easily visit museums, shop in the trendy Scandinavian boutiques, take a walk through Tivoli … or warm up with a cup of coffee and a sandwich.
The nicest part of Copenhagen is Nyhavn, the tourist attraction of the city. It is a port with colorful houses where restaurants and bars can be found. Especially in the summer, it’s super nice to sit on a terrace.
The nicest capital of Scandinavia? That is without a doubt Stockholm, the most important city in Sweden. Built in an archipelago of 30,000 islands, the districts located on islands are separated by water … lots of water.
The nicest district in Stockholm is Gamla Stan, the old city center. This is where Stockholm was founded in 1252. The winding streets take you to important sights or to hidden cafés in one of the many yellow houses. Take a break with fika: a cup of coffee with a cinnamon roll.
Some of my favorite tips are visiting the nice Swedish boutiques, singing along in the ABBA museum, and doing a self-made picnic on one of the wooden piers in the Stockholm harbor.
Norway is not a country that excels in the area of beautiful cities, but in the area of beautiful nature. It is of course the land of the fjords, the Northern Lights, and reindeer. And in the middle of that magical landscape lies the city of Bergen.
Bergen is known for its beautiful wooden houses in the harbor, similar to Copenhagen. It’s the second largest city in Norway, partly because of the many (cruise) tourists that visit the city, but that is with good reason, because it is very cute.
Bergen is more than 900 years old, and was founded in the last days of the Norwegian Viking era. Because of its location on the sea and with Scandinavia as a hinterland, the city became rich as a trading city. History is in Bergen for the taking, but it is also a great place as a start for a tour of the Norwegian fjords.
The most beautiful city in Poland? That is Krakow. With its impressive old city center it is definitely worth a visit. Combine it certainly with a visit to Auschwitz, which is an hour away, and something you (in my opinion) really must have seen with your own eyes.
When I was in Krakow it was raining for two days, so that was a shame, but it was a nice excuse to sit inside with a cup of hot chocolate. I’ve still seen quite a lot of the center (under the umbrella, though). And in the evening I ate with traditional music.
Krakow is the second city in Poland, and it has such a beautiful center because it remained virtually intact in the Second World War. The city center is in its entirety on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Worth a visit are the large market and Jewish quarter. Although there were 70,000 Jews living there once, only 180 live there now. Most died during the Holocaust.
The super cute Prague is the capital of the Czech Republic. Although it is very touristy, it is a beautiful city and a great alternative to the standard city trip destinations in Europe. Moreover, it is much cheaper than many other cities due to its location in central Europe.
The historic center of Prague is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city also bears the nickname the Golden City. The oldest part is Prague Castle, which is also the largest enclosed castle in the world, and dates back to the 9th century. Walk across the beautiful Charles Bridge from the center to the Castle, and enjoy the beautiful view of Prague.
And do not forget to eat Trdelník, the local snack. This is dough that is wrapped around a tube, grilled, and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Super tasty, and the perfect snack to eat while walking through the city center.
The beautiful Budapest is also called the Paris of Eastern Europe. It is not difficult to see why. When we just wandered through the city one night, we even ended up on a film set, haha!
Visit the absurdly impressive parliament building, or climb the hill to the Fisherman’s Bastion, where you have the best view of the city. Have a drink in one of the many ruin bars, and recover from your hangover in one of the thermal baths.
The Slovenian capital has a spelling that I spent years trying to master. But do not skip the city. It’s really a very sweet town. Perfect for a weekend away, with possibly a visit to Lake Bled.
Ljubljana is not that big at all, and therefore wonderful for relaxing. Admire the beautiful colored houses, enjoy cheap food and drink (it is a student city!), and visit the high fort for a view of the city.
I personally think it is one of the most beautiful cities in the Mediterranean, and without doubt the most beautiful city in Croatia. Dubrovnik reminds me a bit of Venice in terms of beautiful architecture. Anyway, it has always been a very rich city, and you can see that from the grandiose architecture.
Walk over the city walls, and enjoy the sun rays reflecting on the orange roof tiles of the houses in the old town, go kayaking to an uninhabited island. Learn all about where “Game of Thrones” is filmed, and more importantly: enjoy the great cuisine.
The ancient Athens is a super fun city trip destination that you might not think of as quickly (who thinks of Greece as a city trip destination?). But that is really unjustified. In the spring and autumn it is wonderful to visit here, and you can literally see ancient temples!
I especially liked Monastiráki, the old center, full of winding streets with restaurants. Eat souvlaki for cheap, and drink ouzo until the sun rises. Athens also has a number of neighborhoods that have a somewhat rougher appearance (thanks to economic crisis), but they are actually very cool because of the street art.
The Turkish capital Istanbul is one of two worlds. Literally, because it is partly in Europe and partly in Asia. That alone is very unique.
Istanbul is a city with a great history, and perhaps you know it from history as Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. After that it was of course also the capital of the Ottoman Empire, and now it is, with some 15 million inhabitants, the largest city in Turkey.
Dream away in the beautiful blue mosque, go shopping in the bazaar or after a boat trip on the Bosphorus-river, join a restaurant that serves authentic Turkish cuisine. How magical do you want your city trip to be?
Cute, compact and fairytale-like: is how I would describe Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. In terms of location, it can not be better. You can get to Tallinn from Helsinki or St. Petersburg for a day trip, but the city itself is worth a visit.
The old town of Tallinn is a beautiful medieval center, dating back to the 13th century. It was once a very rich trading city, which then changed ownership almost every twenty years. One of the nicest places to visit is St. Catherine’s Passage, a beautiful medieval corridor where you walk under all kinds of arches. There used to be the shops of artisans here, and now you can still find traditional shops.
In a full day you have seen everything that the city has to offer, so you can either have a nice beer, or enjoy the super good and very affordable restaurants, or you can visit the countryside, for an overnight stay in, for example Kau Manor. Or, of course, you can go to Helsinki, also a nice city for a day out!
Another city trip destination that you probably never think of is Bucharest, the Romanian capital city. The city offers a surprising mix of Eastern block and Parisian architecture. The center is full of beautiful buildings, hip cafes, and special secret places (from heavenly bookstores, to a walk with colorful umbrellas …).
It is also very nice to rent a car and see some of Romania, such as castles, villages and beautiful nature. My favorite thing in Bucharest was the secret bar that I found behind an abandoned villa. Who says no to that?
The Russian capital Moscow is especially famous for the Kremlin and the beautiful Red Square with the famous St. Basil’s Cathedral. This is the absolute heart of the country, as many historical events have taken place here. The Russian Orthodox Church with its colorful turrets is certainly worth a visit.
Nowadays Moscow is also a trendy city, full of nice coffee shops, nice restaurants, concept stores and rooftop bars. Perfect if you want to enjoy luxury during your city trip, but also want to dive into the fascinating Russian history.
30. Saint Petersburg
The very last city on this list is St. Petersburg, the second city of Russia. It is also the former capital of the country, and deserves its place on this list with ease.
The main reason to visit the city is because of the 120 museums that the city has. It also has fifty theaters, where you can enjoy the Russian State Ballet for example.
Here you will also find beautiful orthodox architecture mixed with trendy boutiques and tasteful restaurants.
What’s on your list of the most beautiful cities in Europe?
General Travel Tips
- For accommodation, I always check Airbnb or Booking.com for the best prices.
- If your insurance at home doesn’t cover travel, you may want to look into SafetyWing for an affordable option.
- I always recommend checking Get Your Guide for the best tours in Europe.