A guide to Best European Destinations
A guide to Best European Destinations

Best European Destinations

Europe has some of the world’s best destinations to visit. Some European destinations have the best architecture in the world. Other best European destinations are on the sites of historic attractions, or have iconic landscapes.

But there are also other European places that are known for their rich artistic and musical heritage. These cultural destinations touch the souls of culture enthusiasts and keep them coming back for more.

Some European destinations have the world's best beaches and ski resorts, and food heavens.

Europe has everything for everybody and it's a must-see destination for any traveler!

Alonga travel the author in Dubrovnik smiling happily about being there
Alonga travel the author in Dubrovnik smiling happily about being there

Last edited: February 16, 2024

Hello, I am Tatiana—historical architecture addict fascinated with beautiful old buildings and discovering best places in Europe to go. Check out my travel tips on Alonga Travel and reviews of the best European destinations and city breaks. They are the result of my slow travelling explorations. Let's connect on social media!

Quick summary of this page

  • The web page is about the best European destinations for different types of travelers and interests.

  • It covers topics such as the best destinations for sun, ski, food, architecture, romance, budget, and more.

  • It also provides tips on how to plan a tour of Europe, how to get between cities, when to visit, and what to pack.

a street cafe on a square in front of Basílica de Santa Maria del Pi in Barcelona
a street cafe on a square in front of Basílica de Santa Maria del Pi in Barcelona
Christmas in Wroclaw, Poland
Christmas in Wroclaw, Poland

Picture above: Christmas in Wroclaw, Poland and above that a square in front of Basílica de Santa Maria del Pi in Barcelona.

The best European destination for you depends on what do you prefer to do on your vacation. Here I highlight the best European destinations depending on what your interests might be.

If you want to catch plenty of sun at the sea - visit the Mediterranean Sea destinations, including Greek, Croatian, Spanish and  Italian islands.

If you have a ski trip in mind, plan to visit Switzerland, Austria, Italy, France, Germany, Poland and other mountain destinations in winter. Don't miss Christmas bazaars; German and Hungarian, Austrian and Czech Christmas markets are famous for that. 

Just pick one (or two) destination and enjoy! Or, visit my page about my favorite destinations in Europe.

Some great Destinations to consider:

Why visit Sintra National Palace on your short visit to SintraWhy visit Sintra National Palace on your short visit to Sintra
Beautiful medieval arched building in Espluga De Francoli in Catalonia Beautiful medieval arched building in Espluga De Francoli in Catalonia

What to do in Espluga de Francoli in Spain, and how to get there.

WHAT ARE THE BEST eUROPEAN DESTINATIONS?

City lights reflecting in puddles of rain in Padua, Italy - a popular travel destination
City lights reflecting in puddles of rain in Padua, Italy - a popular travel destination

Padua, Italy

top visited European destinations in 2023

Europe is known for its magnificent buildings, classic elegance, and narrow streets that offer a sense of intimacy away from the busy crowds. That's why it attracts a lot of tourists. Some countries are more popular with visitors than others for a number of reasons.

top 10 most visited countries in Europe in 2023:

  • - Spain

  • - Italy

  • - France

  • -Portugal

  • -Croatia

  • - United Kingdom

  • - Slovenia

  • - Germany

  • Netherlands 

  • Montenegro

The list changes every year with some countries becoming trendy, like Croatia for example (maybe even too trendy for a quiet visit, especially to Dubrovnik! but there are ways to mitigate this).

The Balkans countries that are not in the Schengen's zone, especially Montenegro, North Macedonia  and Bosnia & Hercegovina are also gaining popularity fast.

These countries are quite affordable, making them fantastic competitors to well-established jewels of European vacations like Italy, France and Spain.   

Granada, Spain during  Sahara dust storm is the top visited destination in Europe
Granada, Spain during  Sahara dust storm is the top visited destination in Europe

Granada, Spain during SAHARA dust storm in Europe

Colorful blue older building in Burano, Venice - the best destination in Europewith peeled paint
Colorful blue older building in Burano, Venice - the best destination in Europewith peeled paint

Keep in mind, though, that just because they are the most visited, it doesn't mean that the rest of the European countries are not worth visiting! In fact, ALL European countries are worth visiting, even though some have more extraordinary places to see than the others

A picture of this colorful blue house I took on the island of Burano in Venice area. It is one of the most popular and visited areas in Europe and in the world!

small countries for the best gateway

Small countries make for the best city breaks and short getaways. They are small in area and it's easy to get around them. Follow the link to my other post to discover all these small countries and why they are the best for city break destinations.

A quiet cozy side street at night in Madrid - a must-see destination in Europe
A quiet cozy side street at night in Madrid - a must-see destination in Europe

Top 10 must-see cities in Europe.

Europe is also home to some of the best cities in the world, offering unique experiences and plenty of things to do. For those looking for a more urban city experience, I recommend checking out these top 10 European cities.

 Top 10 Must-See Cities in Europe:

  • Rome, Italy.

  • Paris, France.

  • London, UK

  • Venice, Italy

  • Florence, Italy

  • Barcelona, Spain

  • Lisbon, Portugal

  • Madrid, Spain.

  • Prague, Czech Republic

  • Dubrovnik, Croatia.

The reality, though, is I can easily add many more cities to this list! Plus, there are many charming tiny old villages all over Europe.

dubrovnik croatia the view on old buildings from Dubrovnik city walls walk
dubrovnik croatia the view on old buildings from Dubrovnik city walls walk

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Lisbon, Portugal during my 2023 visit to the Portugal

I took this picture on a quite side street in the center of Madrid, Spain. You can't guess by the peaceful and serine ambience of this street how popular Madrid is with the visitors. There minutes walk, though, and suddenly you are in the center of a fun busting local life - the main draw of the tourists to Madrid.

A row of colorful houses in Lisbon - the top European destination
A row of colorful houses in Lisbon - the top European destination
Medieval houses in Mostar - a pretty and cheap destination in Europe
Medieval houses in Mostar - a pretty and cheap destination in Europe

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

What are the best affordable cheap European destinations?

The best cheap European destinations are located in Eastern Europe, Especially in the Balkans area. Below are examples of a few of them.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina are one of the most fascinating and affordable European destinations. It's a country with a turbulent history, but it is also one of the most welcoming to tourists. Bosnian people are some of the friendliest people and some parts of the country are incredibly beautiful.

Mostar

Mostar is a city in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s known for the iconic Stari Most (Old Bridge), a reconstructed medieval arched bridge. The nearby alleys are picturesque and host many interesting shops and little markets.

But Mostar has more to offer, besides its bridge and is worth an overnight stay. And you can experience it on a cheap!

Blagaj Tekke, Bosnia and Herzegovina

BLAGAJ TEKKE

Blagaj is an interesting little village in the south-eastern region of the Mostar basin.

Its main attraction is Blagaj Tekija - a Dervish monastery that was built under a cliff on Buna river in 16th century. The monastery has elements of both Ottoman and Mediterranean architectural styles.

Buna river the most picturesque mountain river. There are some fantastic hikes around the area, and if you get tired afterwards, there are plenty of incredibly picturesque restaurants, hanging over Buna river. You can eat  there on a cheap, paying about 13 euros for a delicious meal at an incredibly picturesque location. 

This little gem is not to be missed!

Sarajevo

Another wonderful and very affordable European destination is Sarajevo. Sarajevo has a lot of variety and will attract both city lovers and nature lovers, and you won't need to pay much to visit! If you are an architecture lover, you will fall in love with the city and it's cute  houses from the Austro-Hungarian Empire days as much as I did. 

Food is affordable there as well.

You can rent a private room in Sarajevo for $100 a week.

Read about all the reasons why Sarajevo is affordable European destination to visit in my other post. 

Novi Sad, Serbia

Novi Sad is an underrated European city break option for travelers. It is a fun city, with lots of live music and lots of street arts. Novi Sad has the best and inexpensive Serbian food. A private one-bedroom apartment rents for about $25 a night.

an ancient bridge over the river in Sarajevo with beautiful houses along the river & on the hill
an ancient bridge over the river in Sarajevo with beautiful houses along the river & on the hill
Tall 🗻 as a backdrop to a narrow pretty old street of Sarajevo - a cheap destination to visit
Tall 🗻 as a backdrop to a narrow pretty old street of Sarajevo - a cheap destination to visit

Look at this tall mountains you can see as a backdrop to all streets in Sarajevo. They are so impressive! A had many wonderful walks there

Prizren, Kosovo

Prizren is one of the cheapest destinations in Europe to travel comfortably on a budget. It's perfect for those doing Balkan trip who are interested in history, hiking, and culture.

And on top of Prizren being effordable, it has many mosques and monasteries dating back to the 14th century--a delight for an architectural admirer.

Budapest, Hungry.

Few travelers make it out to Hungary and that's a mistake! Budapest is quite affordable. You will find many worthy your visit attractions there, and it's easy to get to. You don't need to rent a car and one week passes for Budapest's transportation system cost less than $20/person. Not everything is cheap in Budapest, but you can find great deals there.

And the beautiful buildings you will find there will be well worth your time!

Prizren Kosovo picture
Prizren Kosovo picture

Prizren, Kosovo

Ohrid, North Macedonia

In addition to its stunning landscapes and medieval architecture, Ohrid is also known for its affordability. 

The place hasn't experienced an influx of tourists, making it an ideal destination for people looking for a vacation.

The city has beautiful beaches, breathtaking scenery, and an abundance of Mediterranean and Turkish food, all at affordable prices ( 2 euro for a gyro).

Compared to other European places, Ohrid's living and travel expenses are quite affordable. This makes it an ideal destination for budget travelers.

Cobblestone pavement in Ohrid -  - a very affordable and fun destination
Cobblestone pavement in Ohrid -  - a very affordable and fun destination

I spent 2 months last summer happily walking these cobblestone streets in the old town area of Ohrid, North Macedonia. Ohrid truly is a beautiful and very affordable place!

Kosice, Slovakia

Kosice, Slovakia is a fairly small and walkable city, so you don't need to spend money on transportation, but you will see many stunning examples of architecture and you will enjoy inexpensive and delicious food.

Private room go for about $15-20. Hostels around $10 a night. Visit Kosice's central square, Peace Marathon Square. Elizabeth Cathedral is an absolute must while in Kosice.

Trogir, Croatia.

Trogir, Croatia, while cheap in the past, is rapidly getting more expensive. Still, you will fall in love with the beautiful narrow allies you will find there. The surrounding water is great for boating ,swimming and just walking around the old town Trogir island.

All these are just example of a great number of beautiful and inexpensive European destinations.

Trogir Square at night beautifully illuminated with yellow lights
Trogir Square at night beautifully illuminated with yellow lights

A square in Trogir, Croatia during my rainy walk.

European Best cultural destinations

Europe has the best cultural destination in the world that attracts tourists. Here is a list of top cities in Europe with best cultural attractions:

1. Florence, Italy is known for the Italian Renaissance and iconic works of art like Michelangelo's David and Botticelli's The Birth of Venus.

2. Paris, France is home to the prestigious Louvre Museum, which holds the title of being the world's largest art museum, Musée D'Orsa and many other museums and cultural heritage places with a wide range of art from different periods. BTW, did you know that Paris is the cheapest city to fly in from the US? You can fly there, do a couple of days stopover and then fly cheaply to your other destination.

3. Rome, Italy offers a great number of cultural experiences like villa de Borghese, the Colosseum,

4. St Petersburg, Russia has the second-largest art museum in the world, the Hermitage, with a vast collection of art by famous artists like Matisse, Van Gogh, Picasso, and more.

5. London, United Kingdom, has many state-run museums with famous pieces of art and some less known art like by Duchamp and Andy Warhol at the Tate Modern.

6. Vatican City is known worldwide for its Vatican Museums, including the extensive collection, stunning frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, Raphael Rooms, and the Gregorian Egyptian Museum.

7. Madrid is famous for its top-tier museums showcasing exceptional art, like
Prado Museum (masterpieces by Velázquez, Goya, and El Greco), Reina Sofia Museum (20th-century art, including Picasso's renowned Guernica), and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum with a vast private collection representing seven centuries.

8. Lisbon has a great share of unique museums, palaces and castles, including the Museum of Antient arts, Ajuda Palace, and Museum of old carriages (coaches).

9. Vienna, Austria is renowned for its exceptional museums, including the Kunsthistorisches Museum, the Museum of Modern Art (MUMOK), the Leopold Museum, and the Kunsthalle⁶. These world-class institutions contribute to Vienna's vibrant art and cultural scene.

10. In Stockholm, Sweden, you can visit the Vasamuseet, where you'll find the remarkable display of the only nearly complete 17th-century ship ever recovered.

11. Brussels , Belgium is renowned for its world-class museums including the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, the Museum of Natural Sciences, the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History, and the Horta Museum.

Woman's statue in Galleria Borghese in Rome - the top European cultural destination
Woman's statue in Galleria Borghese in Rome - the top European cultural destination

Antonio Canova's statue Paolina Borghese As Venus in Rome, Italy - the top cultural destination during my visit of Galleria Borghese

An outdoor cafe in St. Paul de Vance, France
An outdoor cafe in St. Paul de Vance, France

St, Paul De Vance, France

What are the best cities to visit in Europe for a first-time solo female traveler?

The best cities to visit in Europe for a first-time solo female traveler are the same cities from the top 10 must-see cities in Europe above.

That is because while some smaller offbeat places are also really worth visiting, it's easier to go to large cities on your first European trip as a solo female.

Using public transportation is much more convenient for a first time solo female traveler, rather than renting a car, and public transport is just more developed in highly populated areas.

Also, you will find more choices of good and cheap accommodations in larger cities. Read more about how to choose your accommodation in my other post.

What are some offbeat destinations in Europe if you want things to be different?

Gutach, Germany

Gutach, Germany, is a small town in Germany. Gutach is the perfect spot for anyone who is interested in hiking, biking, and the outdoors on a budget. It's also a great jumping spot to explore the Black Forest.

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent, Belgium, is a compact medieval city. It is located a 25-minute train journey from Brussels.

Visit Gravensteen, the medieval castle overlooking the city. It dates from 1180 and is now a museum and a major landmark in the city.

Bruges, Belgium

Bruges, Belgium is a lovely little town on the banks of the river. It's famous for its medieval architecture and cobblestone streets. There are plenty of things to do in the city. Climb Belfry tower on a cloudless day for panoramic views.

Bruges, Belgium
Bruges, Belgium

Bruges, Belgium

Wroclaw, Poland

Wroclaw is an alternative to more famous Krakow and Warsaw in Poland and is cheap to visit. Wroclaw has a sizeable population of young people. There are many great things to do in Wroclaw, such as the chateau and historical center of the city.

 Montpellier, France.

Montpellier is a city in southern France. It's a modern, vibrant metropolis with lots of culture and history to explore. If you want things to be different, it's a great place to visit. This city will really surprise you with both outstanding medieval architecture and how lively it is at all times, with 60% of its population being under the age of 30.

I will tell you everything about these and other cities in my posts, as offbeat destinations are my specialty!

Blue window frames on a house  in Montpellier, France - an offbeat destination not to be missed!
Blue window frames on a house  in Montpellier, France - an offbeat destination not to be missed!

I love taking pictures of the blue window frames in Montpellier, France. I think they are specific to France, what do you think?

the best summer European destinations

The best summer destinations in Europe can vary depending on what you like, but a majority prefers to visit hot European destinations with beaches in summer.

Let's explore some best beach destinations.

Best European Beach Destinations

#1 - Croatia: Pasjaca and Nugal beach.

Croatia is # 1 in the most amount of incredibly beautiful; beaches in Europe. In fact, Croatia has so many, that it's hard to choose the best from.

Pasjaca (near Dubrovnik), Nugal (near Makarska), and Bačvice (Split) Beaches are one of the most beautiful in Croatia. At least 20 more of their best beach contestants are just slightly behind.

#2 - Montenegro beaches.

Montenegro has the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Here I will just mention one of them - Sveti Stefan beach, since it's the most well known one.

St Nicholas Island beaches and Sveti Stefan Beach.

St Nicholas Island beach off Budva has 3 exquisite beaches that will take your breath away.

Another amazing beach is Sveti Stefan Beach on a tiny peninsula attached to the coast. The beach is mostly for the guests of a luxurious resort there, but visitors can swim and enjoy a small part of the beach. Or, you can pay $80 fee and enjoy one of the resort's beaches. It's that good!

Update 2023 - The resort is closed to the public (while still operational).  You can not enter the resort, but you can walk on the narrow bridge to the gates and but you can enjoy beautiful beaches on the mainland next to Sveti Stefan island.

sun umbrellas on a beach in Budva, Montenegro - one of the best summer destination in Europe
sun umbrellas on a beach in Budva, Montenegro - one of the best summer destination in Europe
A road leading to Sveti Stefan island, surrounded by beautiful beaches
A road leading to Sveti Stefan island, surrounded by beautiful beaches

One of my favorite activities during my 2023 visit to Montenegro was walking along numerous beaches. Look at the impressive mountains as a backdrop for this wonderful beach.

Sveti Stefan Beach during my 2023 visit

#3- Spain: Cala Macarelleta, Cala Macarella, and Cala Cala Pregonda

Spain has it's share of the World's top beaches. The most beautiful ones are on Menorca. Beautiful turquoise waters of Macarelleta and Cala Macarella and simply stunning.  There are many other beaches worth visiting, but I will talk about them in details later.

 #4 - Greece: Elafonissi Beach on Crete

Greek islands have better beaches, compared to the mainland . Islands with the best beaches are Crete, Paros, Ios, Naxos, Milos, and Rhodes. The very best beach is Elafonissi Beach on Crete.

Cala Macarelleta beach, Menorca, Spain
Cala Macarelleta beach, Menorca, Spain

Cala Macarelleta beach, Menorca, Spain

#5 - Italy: Saleccia Beach on Corsica and Numana Alta Beach in Ancona.

White sand and clear waters make Saleccia Beach one of the most beautiful beaches in the world! Numana Alta Beach in Ancona is still unspoiled, which makes it even more unique.

 #6 - France: St Tropez Beach and Antibes Beach.

St. Tropez in France is famous for its impressive long beach, the view of the cliffs and a beautiful sunset. Antibes Beach is another great beach in France which you must visit.

 #7 - Turkey: Kabak Beach, Fethiye and Blue Lagoon, Ölüdeniz.

Turkey, while not technically in Europe, is a country breaching Europe and Asia, and it has many stunning beaches as well.

Kabak Beach in Turkey is a beautiful beach on the Aegean Sea. The sand is white, clean and sheltered by palm trees. Blue Lagoon, located in a national park, where the Aegean Sea meets the Mediterranean, is one of the most beautiful in the entire world.

Kabak Beach, Turkey
Kabak Beach, Turkey

Kabak Beach, Turkey

ski slop in Europe
ski slop in Europe

The best European ski destinations.

The winter resorts of Europe's Alps and Dolomites are world famous for a reason.

While they were heavily hit with Coronavirus-19 pandemic in 2020, things got back to almost the normal level in 2023.

Below is the list of the top 5 ski resorts in Europe: 

  • The best ski resorts in France: Courchevel, Val d'Isere, and Chamonix-Mont Blanc.

  • The best ski resorts in  Switzerland: Zermatt , Verbier and St. Moritz. 

  • The best ski resorts in Italy: Cervinia, Cortina d'Ampezzo and Val Garden

  • The best ski resorts in Austria: St. Anton am Arlberg , Kitzbühel and Lech-Zürs.

  • The best ski resorts in Germany: Arber , Alpsee-Grünten and Garmish-Partenkirchen

A note: The recovery of ski tourism in Europe after the pandemic has been gradual. By winter of 2023, the tourism industry within the European Union had rebounded to nearly 96% of its 2019 level, but the recovery has not been consistent across all nations and sectors.

For example, ski resorts in Scotland have been greatly affected by the pandemic for 2 years, but they are gradually regaining momentum for the past two winter seasons, and are expected to get back to normal in 2024. 

Lesser known great ski resorts

Borovets, Bulgaria.

Borovets is Bulgaria's oldest, most famous and popular ski resort, located on the northern slopes of Rila Mountain. Borovets ski resort was established in 1896. Nowadays, it's a modern ski resort with hotels, restaurants, bars and a well-developed network of ski runs, providing for a whole range of winter sports. 

Lech, Austria

Lech is a charming ski village with a population of less than 2000 people. But what lacks in size is more than compensated by chic boutiques, art galleries, stylish hotels and the highest density of award-winning restaurants in Austria. So Leach, Austria is also a great food destination!

Cherna Gora, Czech Republic

Ski Resort Cherna Gora is the largest ski resort in the Czech Republic. It offers 50 km of slopes and trails. It's quite affordable, as you get an excess to all that trails on a single pass. This ski resort is a network of six different ski resorts, connected by ski slopes and ski buses. There is also a toboggan run, an ice rink and a brewery to relax after a day of skiing on the slopes.

What are the best European food destinations?

Europe has many culinary capitals of the world. Here are the most famous best European food destinations:

  • Paris, France

  • San Sebastian, Spain

  • Lyon, France

  • Palermo, Italy

  • Barcelona, Spain

  • Amsterdam, Netherland

  • Rome, Italy

  • Naples, Italy

  • London, The UK

  • Prague, Czech Republic

  • Santorini, Greece

  • Dublin, Ireland

a street café in Paris France
a street café in Paris France

What is the best, easiest, cheapest way to get between the cities in Europe—fly, train, or car rental?

The best, easiest, and the cheapest way to get between cities in Europe depends on your situation. Buses are usually the cheapest way to travel between cities, and here is a list of all major European bus companies.

And if you are planning to travel around Portugal, buses are definitely the cheapest way to travel. Read my other guide on how to use buses in Portugal, as finding the bus stations is not always easy: my guide explains all the major bus stations and bus companies in Portugal.

But sometimes taking the train, or, even, flying - could be the cheapest way way to travel. Here is the list of all major airline hubs flying to which will usually produce the cheapest air ticket.

While it could be a good idea to rent a car if you are traveling as a family, it will be much easier and cheaper to rely on public transportation for your solo trip.

I cover this topic extensively in my resources section of this blog.

You can find detailed in the link above.

best time to visit Europe

Best time to visit Europe depends on what you are planning to do on your vacation. If your plan is to catch plenty of sun and swim or surf - June through September are your best months to visit countries on the Mediterranean Sea.

It helps to plan to visit Northern European countries during warmer months, and Southern hotter countries and cities, from November through March. Unless you're planning to ski on your trip. Then you should go visit Europe in winter.

My favorite time to visit Europe is April and October. It's the shoulder season, there are fewer crowds and accommodations are cheaper. The weather is usually nice and mild during these months!

Read more about how to decide where to go on vacation in my other post. 

 

What is the weather like in my European travel destination?

Now, how do you know what is the weather like each month in different countries?

Weatherspark is a handy website for figuring this out. Even if the country you are planning to visit is worth visiting any month of the year, this tool will help you plan what to pack and what to bring (and NOT to bring) with you.

European tour destinations.

The European continent is a perfect place for a tour because there is a wide variety of exciting attractions , historical landmarks, beautiful gardens, beautiful historical buildings, cultural landmarks, monuments and breathtaking galleries, beautiful beaches, hills, valleys and parks.

And the best part is that all countries are located so close together, that you can plan a tour of many countries during just one visit to Europe.

Read my 'resources' section to learn how to plan an entire trip by yourself to have a most amazing time, without spending much. Or you can find it here.

Alternatively, if you don't want to plan your own vacation and would rather join a group tour, get more details here.

 

In conclusion, Europe has a great variety of destinations for different types of visit. Chose what suits you the best for your visit! 

Europe will not leave you disappointed, and if you plan your trip right, the way I am showing you on my website, European Destinations will leave an unforgettable impression on you, and you will keep coming back again and again!

Let's connect on social media, the links are below!