There is simply no way to tour Europe and not be awestruck by its natural beauty, fascinating history and dazzling artistic and culinary diversity.

Europe’s wealth of attractions is its biggest single draw: Florence’s Renaissance art, Venice’s graceful canals, Paris’ Napoleonic splendor, and the multilayered historical and cultural canvas of London. There’s also a huge diversity of natural scenery: rugged Scottish Highlands with glens and lochs, the flower fields and hilltop villages of Provence, and the Adriatic coastline speckled with thousands of islands. And those are  just the highlights.

Some of Europe's most popular spots have also felt the effects of overtourism in recent years, as increasing visitor numbers leave an impact on local populations, services and historic sites. Traveling off-season, supporting local businesses and researching the particulars of the issue in your chosen destination can help offset some of the problems.

But with a little planning and care, you’re in for the journey of a lifetime. Here are 27 of the best places to visit in Europe. 

A gothic Victorian bridge structure contrasting with modern glass-fronted buildings
Take in iconic views of London, including Tower Bridge © Alexander Spatari / Getty Images

1. London, UK

Truly one of the world’s greatest cities

London is mercurial and endlessly fascinating; you could spend a lifetime getting to know it, then realize it’s gone and changed again. Stretching back from the mighty River Thames, its lush parks and historic districts are crammed with extraordinary sights: royal palaces, towering cathedrals and remarkable museums and galleries. Add the pick of the world’s theaters, restaurants, sports venues and shops, and you’ll be very reluctant to leave.

Planning a visit to London? Time it right with our seasonal guide

2. Venice, Italy

Magical city seemingly floating on water

A sunny winter’s day, with far fewer tourists around, is the perfect time to lap up Venice's unique and magical atmosphere. Ditch your map and wander the shadowy back lanes of Dorsoduro while imagining secret assignations and whispered conspiracies at every turn. Then visit two of Venice’s top galleries, the Gallerie dell’Accademia and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, which house works by many of the giants of 20th-century art.

Visiting Venice requires a delicate balance. Here are 25 things you need to know before you go

Tree-lined avenues lead through a city. A tall iron tower dominates the skyline
The Eiffel Tower is a defining feature of Paris' skyline © Michal Bednarek / 500px

3. Paris, France

Get up close with an architectural icon

Designed as a temporary exhibit for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (World Fair), Paris’ elegant art nouveau Eiffel Tower has become the defining fixture of the skyline. The first floor is home to glitzy glass pavilions housing interactive exhibits; outside, peer down through the glass floor to the ground below. Visit at dusk for the best day and night views of the City of Light and make a toast at the sparkling champagne bar.

4. Rome, Italy

Classical ruins mixed with contemporary style

From the crumbling Colosseum to the ancient Forum and the Via Appia Antica, few sights are more evocative than the ruins of ancient Rome. Two thousand years ago, this city was the center of the greatest empire of the ancient world, where gladiators battled and emperors lived in unimaginable luxury. Nowadays it’s a haunting spot: as you walk the cobbled paths, you can almost sense the ghosts in the air.

Ready to explore Rome? Here are the city's best experiences

People seated at a small laneway with graffiti and colorful street art lining the walls
Berlin is a cosmopolitan city with reminders of its divided past © Eddy Galeotti / Shutterstock

5. Berlin, Germany

Catch the ever-changing zeitgeist

Nearly 35 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, it’s hard to believe that this most cosmopolitan of cities once marked the frontier of the Cold War. But reminders of Berlin's divided past still remain: whether you’re passing the Brandenburg Gate, gazing at graffiti at the East Side Gallery or studying the exhibits at the DDR Museum, it’s an essential part of understanding what makes Germany’s capital. From there, it's time to soak up the city's amazing modern touches, like its iconic club culture, unique independent shops and cool neighborhoods

6. Dubrovnik, Croatia

A spectacular walled city

Dubrovnik's main claim to fame are its historic ramparts, considered among the finest in the world, which surround luminous marble streets and finely ornamented buildings. Built between the 13th and 16th centuries, the walls are still remarkably intact today, and the vistas over the terracotta rooftops and the Adriatic Sea are sublime, especially at dusk, when the fading light makes the hues dramatic and the panoramas unforgettable.

Want to see more of Croatia? Follow our week-long itinerary

Tourists wander the old square of central Prague, dominated by a twin-spired church
Soak up the beauty of Prague's Old Town © Pauline Lewis / Getty Images

7. Prague, Czechia

An architectural central European jewel

The capital of the Czechia is one of Europe’s most alluring and dynamic places. For all its modern verve, some parts of the city have hardly changed since medieval times – cobbled cul-de-sacs twist through the Old Town, framed by teetering townhouses, baroque buildings and graceful bridges. And if castles are your thing, Prague has an absolute beauty: a 1000-year-old fortress covering around 7 hectares – the world’s largest ancient castle complex.

Make sure to try these quintessential Prague experiences

8. Vienna, Austria

Grand heart of a former empire

The monumentally graceful Hofburg whisks you back to the age of empires in Vienna as you marvel at the treasury’s imperial crowns, the equine ballet of the Spanish Riding School and the chandelier-lit apartments fit for Empress Elisabeth. The palace, a legacy of the 640-year Habsburg era, is rivaled in grandeur only by the 1441-room Schloss Schönbrunn, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the baroque Schloss Belvedere, both set in exquisite gardens.

A view from underneath a bridge shows the canals and bridges of Amsterdam.
The best way to see Amsterdam is from its canals © Sarah Coghill / Lonely Planet

9. Amsterdam, Netherlands

World Heritage-listed canals and gabled buildings

To say Amsterdammers love the water is an understatement. Stroll next to the canals and check out some of the thousands of houseboats. Or better still, go for a ride. From boat level you’ll see a whole new set of architectural details, such as the ornamentation bedecking the bridges. And when you pass the appealing canalside cafe terraces, mark the location for a later return.

Planning your stay in Amsterdam? Here's our guide to the city's best neighborhoods 

10. Budapest, Hungary

Beautiful capital city straddling the Danube 

Along both sides of the romantic Danube River, with the Buda Hills to the west and the start of the Great Plain to the east, Budapest is perhaps the most beautiful city in Eastern Europe. Parks brim with attractions, the architecture is second to none, museums are filled with treasures, pleasure boats sail up and down the scenic Danube Bend, Turkish-era thermal baths belch steam and the city's nightlife throbs till dawn most nights. 

Before you go to Budapest, read up on our tips from a local writer

A very tall church with four individual spires reflected in a pond
See designs by Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona, including his masterpiece, La Sagrada Família, which is still a work in progress © Sylvain Sonnet / Getty Images

11. Barcelona, Spain

See the genius of a visionary architect

Barcelona is famous for its Modernista architecture, much of which was designed by Antoni Gaudí. His masterpiece is the mighty cathedral La Sagrada Família, which remains a work in progress close to a century after its creator’s death. It’s a bizarre combination of crazy and classic: Gothic touches intersect with eccentric experiments and improbable angles. Even half completed, it’s a modern-day wonder.

Get ready to visit Barcelona with these important things to know before you go 

12. Lisbon, Portugal

Soulful city armed with Gothic grit

Alfama, with its labyrinthine alleyways, hidden courtyards and curving, shadow-filled lanes, is a magical place to lose all sense of direction and delve into Lisbon's soul. On the journey, you’ll pass breadbox-sized grocers, brilliantly tiled buildings and views of steeply pitched rooftops leading down to the glittering Tagus. Pause at cozy taverns filled with easygoing chatter, with the scent of chargrilled sardines and the mournful rhythms of fado drifting in the breeze.

Plan the right time for your visit to Lisbon with our seasonal guide

Motorcyclists drive down a road through the lush Scottish Highlands.
The Scottish Highlands are incredibly beautiful and perfect for a road trip © Joe Dunckley / Shutterstock

13. The Scottish Highlands

Scenic grandeur and echoes of the past

Breathtaking views abound in the Highlands. From the regal charm of Royal Deeside, via the brooding majesty of Glen Coe, to the mysterious waters of sweeping Loch Ness, these are landscapes that inspire awe. The region is scattered with fairy-tale castles and the hiking is suitably glorious. Add the nooks of warm Highland hospitality found in classic rural pubs and romantic hotels, and you have an unforgettable corner of Scotland

Exploring more of Scotland? Here are our top road trips

14. Dublin, Ireland

Pints of Guinness and literary connections

Whether you’re wandering around the leafy Georgian terraces of St Stephen’s Green or getting acquainted with the past at Kilmainham Gaol, in Dublin you’re never far from a literary or historic sight. And then there are the city’s pubs: there are few better places to down a pint than Dublin, and you can even make a pilgrimage to the original Guinness brewery. Either way, you’ll surely make a few Irish friends along the way. 

See the best of Dublin with our guide to the city's top things to do

People watch the sunset from the steps of San Miniato al Monte over the city of Florence
The beauty of Florence and Tuscany is the stuff of legend © Julian Elliott Photography / Getty Images

15. Florence and Tuscany, Italy

Italy’s most romanticized region

The gently rolling hills of Tuscany, bathed in golden light and dotted with vineyards, sum up Italy’s attractions in a nutshell. Here picture-perfect hilltop towns vie with magnificent scenery and some of Italy’s best food and wine. And there’s Florence, home to what UNESCO describes as "the greatest concentration of universally renowned works of art in the world". It’s a city packed with blockbuster museums, elegant churches and flawless Renaissance streetscapes.

Experience the best of Tuscany with our tips for first-time visitors

16. Ruins of Pompeii, Italy

Ancient city destroyed and preserved by Vesuvius

Frozen in its death throes, the sprawling, time-warped ruins of Pompeii hurtle you 2000 years into the past. Wander through chariot-grooved Roman streets, lavishly frescoed villas and bathhouses, food stores and markets, theaters and even an ancient brothel. Then, in the eerie stillness, with your eye on ominous Mt Vesuvius, ponder the town’s final hours when the skies grew dark and heavy with volcanic ash.

The large palace of the Alhambra sits on a hill with mountains in the background.
Admire the incredible architecture of the Alhambra © VICTOR TORRES / Stocksy United

17. Andalucía, Spain

Vibrant cities studded with impressive architecture

Andalucía, ancient al-Andalus, is awash with glorious architecture that dates back to the eight centuries of Moorish rule that ended in 1492. Granada, Córdoba and Seville are the high points of a journey of extraordinary riches. In Granada, the palace complex of the Alhambra, in particular, is close to perfection, and perhaps one of the most impressive works of Islamic art anywhere in the world. Put simply, this is Spain’s most beautiful monument.

A street, with a walkway of striped rainbow colors, leads to the pointed spire of a cathedral
Wander up the famous Rainbow Street in downtown Reykjavik © Finn Hafemann / Getty Images

18. Reykjavík, Iceland

The world’s most northerly capital

Most Icelanders live in Reykjavík and even on the shortest visit you’ll be struck by how quirky and creative the population is. Despite being on the northern margin of Europe, the locals have crafted a town packed with captivating art, rich cuisine and an epic music scene. Learn about a history stretching back to the Vikings and use the city as a base for trips to Iceland’s amazing natural wonders.

Here's how to experience the best of Iceland

19. Copenhagen, Denmark

Coolest kid on the Nordic block

Scandinavia is all about pared-back contemporary style – something that the Danish capital has in spades. Home to a thriving design scene, Copenhagen sports Michelin-starred restaurants, hipster cafes and bars, and swoon-worthy boutiques around every corner. Add in top-class museums and galleries and a 1000-year-old harbor with handsome historic architecture and you have the perfect Scandi city. 

A Car drives along the road against a background of beautiful scenic view of a medieval village in France.
Provence is the perfect place to see amazing villages like Trigance © iStockphoto / Getty Images

20. Provence, France

Gallic charm in the south of France

For many people, the pastoral landscapes of Provence are a French fantasy come true. Provence seems to sum up everything enviable about the French lifestyle: fantastic food, hilltop villages, legendary wines, bustling markets and a balmy climate. For decades, it’s been a hot spot for vacationers and second-homers, inspired by the vision of the rustic good life.

Want to see more of France? Here's our guide to the country's best things to do

21. Swiss Alps, Switzerland

Hike, ski and admire these postcard-perfect peaks

The stirring ramparts of the Swiss Alps grace chocolate bar wrappers and evoke stereotypical Heidi scenes, but nothing prepares you for their allure up close. The most famous summit, the Matterhorn, is a mesmerizing peak that looms above the timber-chalet-filled Swiss village of Zermatt. Gaze at it from a tranquil cafe, hike in its shadow along the tangle of alpine paths above town, with cowbells clinking in the distance, or pause on a ski slope and admire its craggy, chiseled outline. 

The tall minarets rise from the Suleymaniye Mosque on the Third Hill of Istanbul.
Stand in awe of Süleymaniye Mosque in Istanbul © Darkdiamond67 / Getty Images

22. IIstanbul, Türkiye

Where Europe meets Asia 

Serving stints as the capital of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires and an ancient crossroads of civilizations, Istanbul is one of the world’s great cities. The historical highlights cluster in Sultanahmet – the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapı Palace and Grand Bazaar – with the vast Süleymaniye Mosque crowning a hilltop in Eminönü.

Find your way around İstanbul with our neighborhood guide

23. Athens, Greece

Monument-strewn capital of Ancient Greece

Greece has ancient monuments at seemingly every turn, but it’s in Athens where the greatest and most iconic still stand. High on a rocky outcrop overlooking the city, the Acropolis epitomizes the glory of ancient Greece with its graceful Parthenon and 17,000-seat Theatre of Dionysos. Other impressive ruins littering this vibrant city include the Temple of Olympian Zeus and two agoras (marketplaces; one Greek, one Roman) mingling with first-rate museums.

A fairytale-style castle rises from lush green hills in Bavaria, Germany.
Admire the beauty of Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany © Mr Waqas Arshad / Shutterstock

24. Schloss Neuschwanstein, Germany

Fairy-tale castle in a fairy-tale setting

Rising from Alpine foothills in the heart of Bavaria, the 19th-century Schloss Neuschwanstein seems to spring from a child’s imagination of the perfect castle. Its pencil-thin turrets, vertiginous walls and glorious setting make it one of Europe’s most recognizable structures, the prototype for many a Disney castle.

25. Greek Islands, Greece

Whitewashed Mediterranean villages above a turquoise sea

Wherever you land, the Greek Islands grab your attention and don’t let go. While popular islands like Santorini and Mykonos have undoubtedly suffered under the weight of overtourism, there are plenty of others to explore that offer more off-the-beaten path experiences. Take in the lush Ionian Islands or the far-flung Dodecanese — whatever you choose, you're in for an incredible experience. 

Rugged cliffs rise out of the ocean, covered in dark grass.
Head to the cliffs of Kerry, just off the Ring of Kerry driving route © Bailey Freeman / Lonely Planet

26. Ring of Kerry, Ireland

A wild and medieval Irish road trip

There’s nowhere quite like Ireland, and the Ring of Kerry, a 179km (111-mile) route through the Iveragh Peninsula, captures all the essential elements of Irish charm on one memorable circuit. Wild and craggy landscapes frame isolated beaches, evocative ruined fortresses stand sentinel over similarly wild Atlantic seas, and windswept mountains watch over villages and islands that could be nowhere else on earth but here.

27. Oslo, Norway

Scandinavia’s gateway to the fjords

Oslo is doing everything it can to claim the prize of Europe’s capital of contemporary style. The Opera House evokes an iceberg in a fjord, public art is a national pastime, and the city’s extraordinary museums span the Viking age to modern Norway. So impressive are the results, that Oslo has become so much more than a mere stopover on the road to the fjords.

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