15 Best European Cities to Visit in Your Lifetime

There are too many incredible cities in Europe to count. Where should you go first? Here are 15 of the best European cities to explore this year.

European cities are hard to beat. They’re full of history and intrigue, charming cobblestone streets and buildings so beautiful they boggle the mind.

They’re the old-growth forests of urban living – they have character, magic, depth, and ineffable appeal. Throw in the amenities of the modern world, and these diverse, vibrant metropoles beg to be explored.

But where should you go first? With so many options and so little time, which cities in Europe should top your bucket list? It would take too long to list every option, but here are 15 of the very best European cities worth visiting whenever you next get a chance.

1. Rome, Italy

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Rome is busy and, at times, chaotic, but the infamous Italian capital is a dream come true for history lovers. It offers a glimpse into the past that few other cities in Europe provide. You’ll find 2,000-year-old attractions nestled amongst all the amenities of a modern city.

The Eternal City’s most unmissable attractions include the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and Vatican City. However, you’ll encounter dozens more just by walking around its storied streets. Try spending at least three days in Rome to make the most of the trip.

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2. Florence, Italy

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Florence is one of my favorite Italian cities. It’s known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, and it shows in the architecture. Florence feels stuck in a time warp. Expect a glut of medieval wonders, with cobbled streets and covered arcades running between them.

Its highlights include the magical Duomo (Florence Cathedral), with its iconic terracotta-tiled dome. Once the world’s largest church, this beautiful, ornate building dates to the early 15th century. Other attractions include Ponte Vecchio and Michelangelo’s statue of David.

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3. Paris, France

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The French capital is Europe’s most visited destination, attracting over 40 million visitors annually. People flock there to see world-famous attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, and Arc de Triomphe. The crowds are less ideal, but the City of Love lives up to its reputation as a romantic destination with no shortage of history, art, and fantastic architecture.

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4. London, England

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London is another European capital with a rich and storied history. It’s an enormous cosmopolitan city built on ancient Roman foundations, where age-old buildings like the Tower of London sit a stone’s throw from modern ones like the Shard.

The list of things to do here is equally impressive. You can dance the night away, shop until you drop, explore historic parks, visit dozens of incredible museums, and eat at some of the world’s finest restaurants.

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5. Edinburgh, Scotland

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Edinburgh is one of the most popular cities in the United Kingdom. It’s incredibly picturesque, with its cobblestone streets and mix of medieval, Georgian, and neo-classical architecture.

Then there’s the iconic Edinburgh Castle that towers over the city, and famous events to enjoy, like the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Easy access to nature adds to Edinburgh’s appeal. And with whisky experiences, quality museums, and lively bars to enjoy, too, you may never want to leave.

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6. Barcelona, Spain

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Spanish cities don’t get much better known than Barcelona. It’s a busy place that attracts millions of visitors every year. People go for the colorful markets, sandy beaches, vibrant walking streets, and, of course, Antoni Gaudi’s iconic architecture.

There are numerous Gaudi buildings across the city, but none are as notorious as La Sagrada Familia. Barcelona’s biggest attraction, this famously unfinished church is huge, ornate, and unlike any other. Inside and outside, it will take your breath away.

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7. Athens, Greece

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It’s tempting to head straight to Greece’s sun-kissed islands, but its cities are definitely worth exploring, too. The capital, Athens, is a sprawling place with some of the world’s most impressive historic ruins. Case and point?

The Acropolis. This rocky outcrop overlooking the city is home to a suite of iconic ruins, including the Parthenon and Temple of Athena Nike. With huge marble columns that have been standing for almost 2,500 years, the sense of history is palpable.

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8. Prague, Czech Republic

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Love history, culture, and cheap beer? The Czech capital has you covered. Prague’s said to be one of the best European cities for seeing well-preserved medieval architecture – and its beer culture is infamous, too.

Its UNESCO-listed historic center is a maze of beautiful squares and cobbled streets lined with bustling bars and gorgeous old buildings. The city’s highlights include the Charles Bridge, the mighty Prague Castle, and the Old Town Square and Clock Tower.

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9. Copenhagen, Denmark

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The Danish capital is a bustling, bike-friendly destination full of bars, historic buildings, museums, attractive waterways, royal residences, and so much more. Copenhagen’s highlights include Tivoli Gardens, the second-oldest amusement park in the world, the Nyhavn Old Harbor, and Amalienborg Palace (home to the royal family).

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10. Budapest, Hungary

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Budapest is yet another architectural gem in Europe’s crown. Its old town is full of medieval charm, but the most impressive building is certainly the Hungarian Parliament Building.

This breathtaking neo-Gothic construction dominates the riverbank and deserves every ounce of attention it receives. Other top attractions in Budapest include the Fisherman’s Bastion, Buda Castle, St. Stephen’s Basilica, and the thermal baths.

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11. Amsterdam, Holland

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Amsterdam is one the best cities in Europe for a short break. It’s a hugely popular tourist destination, with approximately 20 million tourists visiting annually (that’s twenty times more than the city’s local population).

You can’t blame people for going, though. Amsterdam is renowned for its canals, cafes, cycleways, architecture, museums, and nightlife. Specific highlights include the Heineken Factory, the Van Gogh Museum, and Anne Frank House, among many others.

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12. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Mostar is probably the most unknown and underrated European city on this list. But don’t let that put you off! It’s a charming Balkan city that looks fit for a fairytale. With cobblestone streets, stone buildings, and an iconic old bridge spanning the picturesque Neretva River, visitors will feel transported back in time. A mountainous backdrop adds to Mostar’s appeal.

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13. Bern, Switzerland

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This Swiss city feels very different from other European capitals. It’s much smaller and laid back. You’ll wander quaint medieval streets and stroll through covered arcades without having to jostle with rowdy crowds.

Bern’s Old Town is a definite highlight. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it dates to the 12th century and sits atop a hillside with the Aare River curving around it. Top attractions include the clock tower, Bern’s Minster, and the medieval fountains.

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14. Reykjavik, Iceland

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Iceland’s largest city isn’t like other European capitals, either. For one thing, it’s the most northerly capital city on the planet and has a tiny population of around 122,000 people. Throw in its coastal location, crisp air, and mountain views, and you’ll feel transported to another world.

At the same time, Reykjavik enjoys the same perks as any modern city. Despite its size, you’ll find art galleries, museums, ample nightlife, and great places to eat. The incredible Hallgrímskirkja church, pictured above, is a definite highlight.

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15. Ghent, Belgium

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Bruges is probably Belgium’s most famous city. But Ghent might be its most underrated. This dreamy destination is another ideal choice for anyone who appreciates history, culture, and architecture.

It’s a picturesque university city with rivers, canals, UNESCO sites, and a thriving art scene. Throw in more than 600 pubs, 500 restaurants, and some of the world’s finest chocolatiers, and Ghent is hard to beat.

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Author: Danny Newman

Title: Writer and Content Creator

Expertise: Travel, Digital Nomadry, Outdoors, Blogging

Danny Newman is a writer, content creator, and digital nomad from the UK. He founded the travel and lifestyle blog What’s Danny Doing, a popular resource for people seeking more adventure, self-discovery, and purpose. A nationally syndicated writer, Danny’s work features in dozens of online publications, including MSN.com and news sites across the US.