Embarking on a journey across the Best Cities in Europe is akin to stepping into a living masterpiece where history, culture, and innovation seamlessly merge. In our quest to unveil the best cities to explore on the continent in the current year, we have traversed from ancient cobblestone streets to thriving metropolises, capturing the essence of Europe’s diverse urban landscapes. Whether you seek the grandeur of historic landmarks, the vibrant pulse of modern life, or the culinary delights that tantalize your taste buds, this visual journey offers a curated selection of 14 European cities that promise unforgettable experiences.
From the romantic canals of Venice to the dynamic art scene of Berlin, from the enchanting streets of Prague to the coastal charm of Barcelona, our exploration showcases the splendors awaiting you in these European gems. Join us as we delve into the sights, sounds, and stories of these 14 Best Cities in Europe, each with its unique allure and promise of unforgettable moments.
What Visitors Loved
Spain had a remarkable showing on this list, with four of its cities being hailed as the best in Europe by enthusiastic visitors, outshining Italy, Portugal, and Austria, each of which had two cities in the spotlight. Spanish cities, from Seville to Madrid, left readers captivated. It’s not every day we encounter such a profusion of precious-stone analogies in reader responses. One traveler referred to San Sebastián as a “jewel,” while another bestowed the title of “gem” upon Seville.
What’s noteworthy is that the two Italian destinations, Florence and Rome, both secured places in the top five. Rome is poised for an eventful year, with a flurry of hotel openings on the horizon, featuring prestigious names like Six Senses, Bulgari, InterContinental, and Edition, among others. While both Italian cities were featured on the list last year, Florence relinquished its top spot to last year’s runner-up, Istanbul.
Read on to discover why Istanbul took center stage this year and to delve deeper into the captivating stories of the 14 best cities in Europe, as rated by fellow travelers.
Quick Link: 10 of the World’s Best Cities to Visit in 2024
The Most Beautiful Cities to Visit in Europe
We know these cities from books, movies, and historical accounts, so they don’t really need an introduction. The most famous cities in Europe are all well worth the trip to get to them.
1. Edinburgh, Scotland
As I’ve stated before, and my conviction remains unwavering, Edinburgh stands as one of the most underappreciated gems in all of Europe, if not the pinnacle of this distinction. There’s an indefinable, almost mystical quality to this city that ensnares the hearts of countless souls, myself included, often long before they set foot on its hallowed grounds. What’s more, Edinburgh offers an extra layer of enchantment with its numerous Harry Potter locales, serving as a haven for fans of the wizarding world. It’s here, amidst the city’s historic and atmospheric streets, that the literary genius J.K. Rowling crafted many of her timeless works in cozy cafes, drawing inspiration from the very essence of Edinburgh itself.
2. Bruges, Belgium
Bruges is a city of such exquisite beauty that you could easily mistake it for a setting plucked from the pages of a real-life storybook. Often hailed as the most enchanting city in all of Europe, Bruges possesses an old-world charm that exudes a rare authenticity, a quality that often eludes cities when they become popular among throngs of travelers. Yet, remarkably, Bruges has preserved its beguiling allure. Its cobbled streets, medieval architecture, and picturesque canals transport you to a bygone era, where time seems to have stood still.
This city’s ability to retain its authentic character despite its acclaim is a testament to its enduring magic, making it a destination that truly lives up to the fairy tale imagery that it evokes.
3. Annecy, France
Annecy is the embodiment of a picture-perfect town, the kind that often feels too idyllic to exist in reality. Speaking from personal experience, I can unequivocally attest that its beauty in person surpasses even the wildest expectations. Nestled in the southeast of France, this charming city gazes over the sparkling expanse of Lake Annecy. Its intricate network of waterways winds through the heart of the city, evoking comparisons to Venice’s canals.
Moreover, Annecy’s proximity to the majestic Alps bestows it with a backdrop that seems plucked from a dream. The sheer splendor of this place is enough to make you question whether you’ve stepped into a work of fiction or if this ethereal town truly exists in the realm of reality.
4. Barcelona, Spain
My affection for Barcelona ignited swiftly, as this European gem brims with vibrancy and allure. Saturated with a kaleidoscope of colors, adorned with the whimsical architecture of Gaudi, and graced with some of Europe’s finest cuisine (who could resist patatas bravas?), Barcelona weaves a captivating tapestry of experiences. In terms of sheer beauty, the city reigns supreme with its profusion of architectural marvels, each a potential subject for a picture-perfect postcard.
Barcelona beckons you to explore its wonders, and one ideal way to do so is by renting a van and embarking on an adventure with friends, a journey that promises to unravel the myriad enchantments of this captivating city.
5. Valletta, Malta
My time in Malta was regrettably brief, but it left an indelible itch for a return. This nation unfolds like a treasure trove, boasting splendid architecture, a rich and imposing history, and a populace renowned for their warmth and hospitality. The Maltese take immense pride in calling this country their home, and they eagerly extend their open-hearted welcome to visitors. At the heart of it all lies Valletta, the capital, a city with a history dating back to its establishment in the year 1500.
Its timeless appearance is a testament to the enduring legacy of a place where every cobblestone seems to whisper stories of the past, beckoning you to return and delve deeper into Malta’s alluring tapestry.
6. Florence, Italy
The capital of Tuscany in Italy is often hailed as one of the world’s most exquisite cities, a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly concur after several visits over the years. Florence is a living treasure trove of history from the Renaissance period, where every corner teems with the past. It’s a place where you might find yourself almost in need of a neck brace, as you swivel your head in every direction, trying to absorb the sheer magnificence of it all.
While the Cathedral and the Ponte Vecchio are iconic, it’s essential to venture off the beaten path. Cross one of the many bridges, and an entirely new realm unveils itself. Beyond the city center lies a world of public parks, libraries, and smaller art galleries, each offering a different facet of Florence’s multifaceted charm.
7. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague unquestionably stands as one of the world’s most enchanting cities, a timeless gem that beckons travelers from across the globe. Its architectural tapestry seamlessly weaves together elements of Gothic, Romanesque, and Renaissance styles, creating an endless panorama of beauty. The heart of the city, the Old Town, pulsates with visitors throughout the year. For those seeking respite from the bustling crowds, venturing off the well-trodden paths is the key.
Some of my dearest discoveries in Prague remain hidden from the guidebook’s pages, treasures that unveil the city’s most authentic and lesser-known facets. These hidden gems, concealed away from the typical tourist routes, promise an intimate and unique Prague experience that lingers in memory long after the visit has concluded.
8. Vienna, Austria
While there are few cities that can rival the sheer beauty of Paris, Vienna emerges as a rare contender that comes remarkably close. Often described as a pristine counterpart to the French capital, I can’t help but agree after several visits to both enchanting cities. Vienna’s allure lies not only in its visual splendor but also in its unique coffee house culture, a personal favorite.
Stepping into one of these establishments is akin to a journey back in time, where tradition and formality prevail. Surprisingly, this ambiance is embraced with open arms, even by the younger generation, making the Viennese coffee house a place where old-world charm seamlessly intertwines with contemporary trends, enriching the city’s cultural tapestry.
9. Verona, Italy
Arriving in Verona is nothing short of a mesmerizing experience, where the sheer beauty of the city strikes you with a kind of nonchalant, effortlessly cool allure. Verona proudly claims to be the birthplace of Romeo and Juliet, though it’s worth noting that this assertion has stirred some debate. However, this seemingly whimsical tale begins to make sense the moment you immerse yourself in the city for more than a mere five minutes.
Verona’s charm weaves a spell, and as you wander through its enchanting streets, you’ll understand why this legend found its roots here. The city’s beauty, infused with an understated elegance, effortlessly captivates, creating an ambiance that’s both contemporary and timeless, echoing the essence of its most famous love story.
10. Budapest, Hungary
Budapest, a city as resplendent as it is, emerges as a coveted destination for travelers exploring the European circuit. Located a mere three-hour train journey from Vienna, the Hungarian capital holds a central position on the European map. Its allure transcends mere geography, rooted not only in its captivating history but also in the grandeur and elegance that could easily rival the likes of Paris. Budapest’s expansive layout is remarkably pedestrian-friendly, with many of its attractions clustered along the majestic Danube River.
Crossing the river to explore Buda, and ascending to Castle Hill and the Fisherman’s Bastion, rewards you with the finest panoramic views of the city from on high, making this an essential stop on any European itinerary.
11. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam, a perennial magnet for travelers, holds its status as one of Europe’s most sought-after destinations for good reason. While it once bore the moniker of the “weed capital of the world” (a title somewhat dimmed by California’s legalization and similar moves elsewhere), Amsterdam’s appeal remains as lively as ever, casting an irresistible spell, particularly on young adventurers. Embroidered with picturesque canals and iconic canal houses, the city stands as an unequivocal testament to its claim as one of the most breathtaking cities in all of Europe.
Its unique blend of vibrant energy and timeless charm, embodied by its waterways and architectural splendors, ensures that Amsterdam continues to captivate the hearts of all who venture into its enchanting embrace.
You May Also Like: 15 of the Best Halloween Celebrations Places in the United States
12. Mykonos, Greece
Mykonos had long been one of those cities that I knew I’d inevitably fall head over heels in love with, yet it took some time for the stars to align and lead me to Greece. This vibrant party hub is a harmonious blend of exhilaration and beauty. To truly savor the essence of Mykonos, the early morning hours hold a special allure. It’s during this tranquil time, before the lively crowds flood the streets, that you can uncover the island’s most authentic and enchanting facets.
Mykonos, with its magnetic charm and enticing blend of daytime serenity and nighttime revelry, is a destination that beckons exploration at every turn, ensuring an experience that’s both unforgettable and endlessly captivating.
13. Paris, France
For those who’ve graced this blog previously, my profound infatuation with Paris is no secret—it’s as authentic as it gets. Yet, there’s a secret dimension to my affection for the City of Light that adds an extra layer of enchantment. If you can view Paris through the lens of the 1950s, you’re poised to fall even deeper in love with this timeless city. It’s a place teeming with culture, art, and a living literary history, embodied in its myriad cafes, bars, streets, and sidewalks that have all played a role in the narratives of the Lost Generation.
Paris, with its romanticism and vibrant history, invites you to step into the stories of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and countless others who were inspired by the city’s enduring magic, promising an experience that’s both nostalgic and profoundly captivating.
14. Stockholm, Sweden
My inaugural visit to Stockholm left an indelible mark, and I instinctively knew it wouldn’t be the last. Sweden’s capital exudes an irresistible charm and quaintness that, at times, makes it easy to overlook the fact that it’s home to nearly one million residents. Stockholm’s unique character unfurls across 14 islands, and much of its allure is cocooned by the embrace of the surrounding waters, connected by a network of elegant bridges. As the sun gracefully sets over this archipelago city, it casts an enchanting light, illuminating its intricate web of islands, each contributing to the captivating narrative of a place that somehow strikes a harmonious balance between metropolitan vibrancy and serene beauty.
Final Words (Best Cities in Europe)
Europe’s allure as a continent of rich history, diverse cultures, and vibrant cities remains as compelling as ever. This visual journey through the 14 best cities to visit in Europe this year has unveiled a tapestry of experiences, from the timeless beauty of iconic landmarks to the contemporary dynamism of thriving urban centers. Whether you’re drawn to the Old World charm of historical cities or the cosmopolitan energy of bustling metropolises, Europe’s cities offer a kaleidoscope of adventures to savor. As you embark on your European odyssey, these 14 cities beckon with their distinctive character, promising memories that will linger long after your journey ends.
We carefully considered a range of factors, including cultural significance, tourist attractions, recent developments, and visitor feedback, to curate this list of the best cities to explore in Europe in the current year.
While each city is unique, you can expect a blend of historical landmarks, cultural richness, culinary delights, and vibrant atmospheres. Europe offers a diverse range of experiences, and these cities exemplify that diversity.
Yes, these cities cater to a wide spectrum of travelers. Whether you’re traveling with family, exploring solo, or embarking on a romantic getaway, you’ll find something to suit your interests and preferences in these European destinations.
Absolutely! Our visual journey aims to highlight both the iconic and lesser-known gems within each city. Keep an eye out for our recommendations and tips to discover the hidden treasures and unique experiences that these European cities have to offer.