Europe is a continent that’s filled with history and culture and across its capitals and cities you can find each country’s heritage etched into the streets, and across the sights and attractions found there.
The most beautiful cities in Europe are waiting to be explored, and you can visit on short city breaks or make use of the excellent continent-wide transportation to travel on an extensive city-hopping trip.
You can see the glitzy, romantic sights of Paris, watch the changing of the guard outside Buckingham Palace in London, or head to a classic opera in Vienna. Soak up the thermal waters in Hungary, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, or admire the rustic architecture of Berlin, in Germany.
From Spain to Russia, your options are almost endless, but to help you plan your trip, we’ve put together a rundown of the best cities in Europe to visit.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Europe (Travel Guide)
15 Best Cities in Europe to Visit
1. London, England
London has the highest tourist numbers in Europe and the British capital is every bit deserving of the title of the most visited city on the continent, as you would expect from such a legendary destination.
London is both old and new, with historic buildings echoing hundreds of years of history, while modern skyscrapers rise gloriously over the skyline. You can visit Buckingham Palace, walk through St James’ Park, cruise along the River Thames and admire Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
You can find Britain’s best museums in London, yet another reason why this is one of the best cities in Europe, and you’ll find that the Natural History Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Science Museum, to name just a few, will keep you occupied for hours.
Be sure to plan at least 3 days in London to maximize your opportunity of experiencing all that this great city has to offer.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet London (Travel Guide)
2. Paris, France
The continent’s second most visited city, and arguably, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, is Paris. This is the city of love and romance, but regardless of whether you are visiting as a couple or not, the French capital has a lot to offer.
Take a tour to the top of the Eiffel Tower, for incredible vistas over the city. Explore the galleries of the Louvre, where you can see the famous Mona Lisa painting in all its glory, before strolling along the Champs Elysees for the best view of the Arc de Triomphe.
When you are finished sightseeing each day, then enjoy the quality fine dining that Paris is renowned for, sit out with glasses of wine on ramshackle streets, and enjoy the Parisian lifestyle.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Paris (Travel Guide)
3. Rome, Italy
Rome is not only one of the best cities in Europe, but it’s also one of the most historic, and no tour of the continent is complete without a journey through the centuries in the Italian capital.
The center of Roman civilization for hundreds of years, the city is full of historic ruins and relics. You can walk through the crumbling stands of the Colosseum and step back in time amongst the ruins of the Roman Forum.
Enjoy wonderful Italian food and drink, including classic pizza and pasta dishes, before visiting the heart of Catholicism at the Vatican, joining other tourists at the Trevi Fountain or walking the famous Spanish Steps.
Don’t sell yourself short on your visit and make sure you plan at least 3 days in Rome. If you can manage more, there is definitely no shortage of things to do in the city. You’ll also want to plan some time to take a day trip to Pompeii too.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Rome (Travel Guide)
4. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam is one of the best cities in Europe if you’re looking for a mix of culture and hedonism, as anything is possible in the liberal, Dutch capital.
Spend your days riding bicycles along the cobblestone streets, or joining boat tours along the canals. You can shop at floating flower markets, visit museums dedicated to famous Dutch artists such as Van Gogh or Rembrandt, and of course, call in at the local coffee shops or take a late-night walk through the Red Light District!
Amsterdam is an exciting and energetic city that you’ll become instantly addicted to. I would know, I’ve visited no less than 5 times in my travels.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet The Netherlands (Travel Guide)
5. Berlin, Germany
The German capital might not be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, but Berlin is still one of the best. What it lacks in aesthetics or flair in comparison to the likes of Paris or Rome, it makes up for in contemporary culture.
Enjoy Berlin’s unique nightlife, delve into German food and drink at traditional pubs and breweries or take a look at the remnants of the Berlin Wall and other historic sights such as the Reichstag or the Brandenburg Gate.
While it’s not Bavaria, Berlin holds it own for an intriguing city to visit in Europe. Be sure to take a walking tour so you can get up close to the history of the city.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Pocket Berlin (Travel Guide)
6. Vienna, Austria
Vienna though is certainly one of the most beautiful cities in Europe as the Austrian capital is packed with unique, Austro-Hungarian architecture and Baroque palaces.
Stroll through perfectly landscaped gardens and explore the stately rooms of lavish residences built for past royalty. Visit the world-famous State Opera – if you’re lucky, you might be able to get tickets for a performance and enjoy the many museums that are found across the city too.
Additionally, Vienna boasts one of the most beautiful Christmas markets in all of Europe.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Vienna (Travel Guide)
7. Budapest, Hungary
Follow the River Danube from Vienna, and you’ll eventually arrive in Budapest, one of the best cities in Europe to visit. The Hungarian capital is really a story of two cities, as on one side of the river you have the cliff tops, castles and palaces of Buda, while on the other, you have the low lying streets of downtown Pest.
Visit Buda Hill for exceptional views over the city, admire the Hungarian Parliament from afar, or take a tour through the interior.
Walk along Andrassy Avenue, calling in at shops or restaurants along the way, while those with an interest in modern history, can also visit the infamous House of Terror, to learn about the crimes of the nationalist and communist governments of the past.
End any day in Budapest with a relaxing session at one of the city’s thermal baths. Budapest is built on hot springs, and you can spend hours enjoying the spa lifestyle in the Hungarian capital.
Budapest is one of our favorite cities in Europe, for the simple fact that it is full of incredible sights, architecture and is very affordable in comparison to some of the other cities. Be sure to give yourself at least 3 days in Budapest to experience what the city has to offer.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Pocket Budapest (Travel Guide)
8. Prague, Czech Republic
While you are in Central Europe, then a visit to Prague is a must, to see the Czech capital in all its glory. The city is full of medieval architecture, which remarkably survived the ravages of World War II mostly intact.
You can see the iconic castle, walk over the world-famous Charles Bridge and marvel at the intricate Astronomical Clock that dates back hundreds of years. Prague emits an old-world charm that cannot be found in any other city across Europe.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Prague & the Czech Republic (Travel Guide)
9. St Petersburg, Russia
Travel further east, and you can visit St Petersburg, the most majestic city in Russia. Found on the Baltic Sea, St Petersburg was designed and built during the era of Czar Peter the Great to emulate the best cities in Europe and to serve as his capital.
Although it’s no longer the Russian capital, it’s still the second-largest city and St Petersburg is packed with historic sights and culture. Explore grand cathedrals and palaces, and spend hours walking through the galleries of the State Hermitage Museum.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet St Petersburg (Travel Guide)
10. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana is one of the smallest national capitals on the continent, but it’s one of the best cities in Europe to visit if you are in search of a quiet experience, and a change from other bustling metropolises.
Ljubljana is beautiful, and the Slovenian capital is built along the turquoise banks of the River Ljubljanica. You can visit the alternative art community of Metelkova, admire the historic Austro-Hungarian architecture in the city, and climb to the top of the imposing fortress for the best views over the city.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Slovenia (Travel Guide)
11. Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city, and it’s a great place to visit to see both cultures and scenery. You can explore the historic, medieval streets of the Old Town, sample Swiss chocolate firsthand and gaze out over the beautiful shores of Lake Zurich.
From the city, you are within easy reach of some of Switzerland’s most dramatic natural sights, from alpine lakes to high mountain peaks.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Switzerland (Travel Guide)
12. Madrid, Spain
The Spanish capital is the largest city in the country, and it’s packed with historic sights, excellent restaurants, and even better cafes and bars.
Enjoy the local culinary scene, sampling coffee, tapas, and wine through the day and into the evening, while visiting such iconic sights as the Royal Palace, Retiro Park or even the Real Madrid football stadium.
This city is addictive and you’ll need at least 3 days in Madrid to really get a grasp on history. Be sure to take a walking tour so you can learn the stories during your visit.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Madrid (Travel Guide)
13. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Located on the beautiful shores of the Adriatic Sea in southern Croatia, Dubrovnik is famed for its intricate Old Town and remarkable, medieval walls.
Made famous in recent years by Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik is well-deserving of the vast increase in tourism it’s seen. You can walk along the high, Venetian era walls, lose yourself in the maze of medieval streets or even sail or kayak along the coast for exceptional scenes and Mediterranean landscapes.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Pocket Dubrovnik & the Dalmatian Coast (Travel Guide)
14. Milan, Italy
After Rome, Milan is one of the best cities to visit in Italy, and it’s packed with Renaissance architecture and artwork. You can visit the best museums in northern Italy and see classics from such masters as Leonardo da Vinci across the city.
Dine out in luxury at Michelin starred restaurants or stay in luxury at five-star hotels because Milan really is a high-end destination!
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Pocket Milan (Travel Guide)
15. Barcelona, Spain
The cultural and historic heart of Catalonia is one of Europe’s most visited cities, but it’s worth braving the crowds to see all that Barcelona has to offer. The city is built on the Spanish coastline and you can stroll from the center, right onto sandy beaches.
Walk along the famous Las Ramblas, a long avenue in Barcelona, calling into museums and markets, before admiring the yet to be completed Sagrada Familia, a beautiful cathedral designed by Gaudi.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Discover Barcelona (Travel Guide)
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