50 Best Places in Europe to Visit
Planning a holiday to Europe? Whether you’re craving a city break, a few days of adventure, or a total escape into nature – we’ve got you covered. Here are 50 of the best places to visit in Europe for interesting visits, great food, and natural wonder.
1. Svalbard, Norway
Even if you’re someone who loves a winter getaway, chances are you’ve never travelled anywhere quite so far north as Svalbard, an archipelago of nine islands between mainland Norway and the North Pole. But if you’ve ever dreamt about visiting the Arctic, then a trip to Svalbard is the best place to go.
A short flight from Tromso or Oslo will take you to Longyearbyen, the largest settlement on Svalbard and where your Arctic adventures will begin. People come from all over the world to explore the rugged natural beauty, go to ethical wildlife watching to see polar bears, whales, and walruses, and go hiking. And there’s always plenty of time to stop for an ice-cold beer at the northernmost brewery in the world. From snow-capped mountains and stunning fjords to spooky former Soviet mining towns – Svalbard one of the most fascinating places on Earth, not just Europe.
2. Azores Islands, Portugal
Although technically part of Portugal, the Azores islands seem like a world away from the mainland. The remote archipelago of volcanic islands sits in the mid-Atlantic, and is often described as the “Hawaii of Europe”. And with rugged landscapes and deep-blue waters, it’s not hard to see why – although its temperatures are subtropical and milder. This is ideal if you need to get away from city heat in the summer. The Azores is a place to escape into natural beauty, and it’s home to two of Portugal’s 15 Unesco World Heritage Sites including the historic city of Angra do Heroismo on the island of Terceira and the ancient vineyards of Pico.
If you’re short on time and aren’t sure where to start – the largest and most accessible of the islands is Sao Miguel. It’s filled with spectacular volcanic landscapes, hot springs, hiking trails, beautiful lakes, and is the number one destination for whale and dolphin watching in Europe.
After a full-on day of exploring, you can feast on cheap pestiscos, Portuguese tapas. Meat and seafood are on the menu in most places but veggies and vegans should check out plant-based Rotas de Ilha Verde. Looking for more reasons to go? The Azores is the first archipelago given the EarthCheck certificate for sustainability. The Azores ranks number 2 in our top 50 best places in Europe to visit.
3. Lofoten Islands, Norway
When it comes to natural beauty in Europe, Norway really delivers. As a well as Svalbard, the country is also home to the stunning Lofoten Islands – an archipelago of seven islands. Lofoten is a certified sustainable destination and is worth visiting for Viking history, unspoilt landscapes, witnessing the Northern Lights in, and even surfing.
It has a milder climate than other places with the same latitude, thanks to the warmth of the Gulf Stream and if you come in the summer months, you’ll experience the midnight sun. Definitely a place for outdoor types, Lofoten is a haven for hiking, climbing, kayaking, cycling and skiing.
4 .Westfjords, Iceland
To be honest, we could easily just say Iceland and leave it at that. All of it is pretty spectacular. But if you’re looking for an alternative to the touristy hot spots like the Golden Circle and the Blue Lagoon, then make a trip to Westfjords. They’re lesser-known and visited than other parts of the country because they’re vast, and far away from the major destinations like Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, Lake Mývatn (yes, as featured on Game of Thrones) and the aforementioned Golden Circle.
So why trek to Westfjords? Well, it’s sparsely populated, remote and has different landscapes to a lot of Iceland. It is very rugged and dramatic, and you’ll need a car to get around but it’s worth it and it’s about 107 miles drive from Reykjavik. Once you’re there, you’ll be able to visit the little known Dynjandi waterfall and the pink-sand beach Rauðasandur, and you see Puffins on the cliffs at Látrabjarg. It’s also a great place to see the Arctic fox and go seal watching and whale watching. Plan your visit carefully though, heavy snowfall means it’s not really accessible in the winter, so the best times to go are May to October.
5. Sintra, Portugal
Sintra is a beautiful, historic town nestled in the breezy mountains of Serra de Sintra in Portugal. It’s only a 40-minute train ride from Lisbon, so it’s easy to do as a day trip if you’re visiting the capital too. Sintra is perfect for an escape when you’re pushed for time. You can explore lush forests, colourful palaces, the ruins of a Moorish castle, and ancient wells.
It’s worth taking a mid-week trip to avoid crowds, particularly at the brightly coloured and huge Palacio de Pena, which is the main tourist draw. Another of Sintra’s regal buildings in the ruins of the Castelo Dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors), where you can stop around the ancient ramparts high above the town for some pretty spectacular views.
The Quinta Da Regaleira Palace and Gardens is a sprawling private estate with a massive gothic house. But if you only have time to visit one part – make it the Initiation Well. The spiralling 88ft deep Initiation Well, which descends down into a tunnel system and was used for Masonic initiation ceremonies. Sintra ranks number 5 in our top 50 best places in Europe to visit.
6. Santorini, Greece
Most people are familiar with blue domes and bright whitewashed homes that jut out over Santorini’s blue seas. But there’s plenty more to explore on this Greek Island, including a place believed to be the lost city of Atlantis. Over 3000 years ago, a huge volcanic eruption devastated Santorini. The middle of the island disappeared deep into the ocean and left a massive caldera (crater) in the cliffs, so make a trip to the Minoan ruins of Akrotiri and head west to visit Akrotiri Lighthouse for spectacular views. If you’re there for a few days and packed decent walking shoes, it’s also worth making the short hop to Nea Kameni island for amazing hikes in dramatic volcanic landscapes.
But trips to any of the Greek Islands are a mix of history, culture, and of course food and drink. Take a wander around the pretty streets of Fira and Oia for Saganaki (fried cheese in filo pastry, covered in honey), Moussaka, Spanakopita, with a glass of local beer or wine as the sun comes down over the Aegean sea.
7. Faroe Islands
It’s probably no surprise that we like islands around here. And the Faroe Islands is a destination Secret Atlas guests would have a great time exploring. Technically part of Denmark, although self-governing – It’s an archipelago of 18 islands in the Atlantic Ocean, that sit between Scotland, Norway and Iceland and you can fly there from Edinburgh, Reykjavik, or Bergen in Norway. This is one trip that will need a bit more planning than a lot of European holidays, especially as there are only a few hotels, B&Bs and private rentals to choose from.
The Faroe Islands are for adventurous travellers. The weather patterns vary a lot (due to both the warmth of the gulf stream and the icy Arctic waters). LIke Svalbard, it’s worth visiting for rugged, untamed natural beauty, amazing hiking trails, huge mountains, and craggy bird cliffs and black sandy beaches. You can go kayaking to the impressive Draganir sea-stacks, spot Puffins at Mykines, and go horse riding around the capital Tórshavn. And if you’re tired from all of that exploring, you can unwind at a Heimablídni, which is Faroese for homegrown hospitality. So you can enjoy a cosy fish and chip supper in a remote, 19th century home. The Faroe Islands come in at 7 in our best places in Europe to visit guide.
8. Isle of Skye, Scotland
When it comes to rugged island escapes, Scotland more than holds its own among others in Europe. The Isle of Skye is the largest of the Inner Hebrides (an archipelago of over 40 islands off the west coast of Scotland) and it’s full of stunning scenery, interesting wildlife, and plenty of Whisky. If you want to avoid crowds, head to The Fairy Glen, high above the village of Uig where a landslip created a pretty magical landscape.
For sweeping views of Skye’s coast, visit Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls. The craggy Old Man of Storr is another of the Isle of Skye’s iconic sights, but it’s very popular so choose your time wisely if you want to avoid crowds. You can also hang out with some Hebridean Alpacas, and sip Highland single malt at the Talisker, and Torahbhaig or Raasay distilleries for a drink with an incredible view.
9. Utrecht, Holland
Daytrippers often go to Utrecht from Amsterdam, but there’s plenty of reasons to visit for longer. It’s less crowded for a start. The city is over 2000 years old – the Romans built a fortress at what is now Dom Square, and buildings from the middle ages still stand in the city centre. It has all the charming Dutch canals of the capital (and according to travel search engine GoEuro, it’s the most beautiful canal city in Europe). As well as canalside wandering, Utrecht also has gothic architecture, pretty streets and great cafes, restaurants and bars.
Summer and Autumn are great for a mini-trip if you like festivals including Ultrasonic in July, and The Nederlands Film Festival and BockbierFestival, and the music festival Le Guess Who? in November. Utrecht comes in at 9 in our best places in Europe to visit guide.
10. Seville, Spain
The whole of the Andalucia region is worth exploring, but for a short European break, go for the capital, Seville. The medieval city filled with Moorish, Catholic, and Jewish landmarks, gothic architecture, winding streets, beautiful gardens – and many plates of tapas. It’s an easy city to walk around, although try and avoid the height of summer (July and August) unless you can handle walking in 35°c+ heat. Even early Autumn gets pretty hot, and in the mid-afternoon, you’ll notice that locals pull the shutters down to escape the heat.
You can visit two landmarks in quick succession by buying a ticket to the Catedral de Sevilla, the Gothic Giralda Tower, and the Real Alcázar. The Alcazar is a palace commissioned by the Christian King Pedro I in the 14th Century – he used Moorish workmen so it includes a mixture of Christian and Islamic art and symbolism. Seville comes in at 10 in our best places in Europe to visit guide.
11. Triglav National Park, Slovenia
Mountain hiking isn’t just for the chocolate box scenery of the Swiss Alps. Northwest Slovenia, is home to the Julian Alps, close to the Italian and Austrian borders. This is where you’ll find Triglav National Park, one of our best places in Europe to visit. It has been protected since 1924, so hasn’t had to contend with over-tourism. This means if you do make it, you’ll witness unspoilt natural beauty, including high mountain peaks, and the stunning Savica and Pericnik waterfalls. In the winter months, they freeze over so you can go on a guided ice climb.
The vast park is also home to the rocky, vegetation filled Blejski Vitgar gorge where you can go hiking, climbing, and canoeing. If you’re after bigger adventures and faster speeds, then head to the Soca river. From there you can go rafting or hydrospeeding (also known as riverboarding) where, as the name suggests, it involves lying on board and being carried along a very fast flowing river.
12. Leipzig, German
The small city in Saxony has given Berlin a run for its money as the German city for creatives and visitors in recent years – just look at the #hypezig all over Instagram. The former East German city was run down after the reunification of Germany, but it’s old industrial areas like Plagwitz are now cultural zones filled with galleries, studios, bars and clubs. Several of Leipzig’s old buildings have been restored too, so it’s a great mix of old and new.
It’s a city to explore on foot, to explore architecture like The Opera House and Mendebrunnen fountain, as well as contemporary art. Head up to the top of Panorama Tower on Augustplatz to look over at nearby forests. For a break from the city streets, visit Clara Zetkin Park or take a canoe tour of the city.
13. Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
One of Europe’s most beautiful natural wonders is Giant’s Causeway. It’s just a short train ride from Belfast and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And it’s easy to see why. Legend has it, the arrangement of large stepping stones (actually tens of thousands of interlocking basalt columns) was the result of an argument between an Irish Giant and a Scottish Giant. The myth of Finn McCool makes for a great yarn, but a trip to the visitors centre offers a more scientific origin story involving volcanic activity. Either way, it’s a stunning coastline to behold. Go there to stomp around the ancient rocks and walk more of the Causeway Coast Way – it’s perfect for hiking.
The area is famous for road trips too, so it’s worth hiring a car and planning a route along the coast to stop off at other landmarks like Mussenden Temple, Dunluce Castle, and take a break at Bushmills Distillery. The Giant’s Causeway comes in at 13 in our best places in Europe to visit guide.
14. Crooked Forest, Poland
Poland’s Kryzwy Las or Crooked Forest is one of Europe’s most enchanting, and strange natural places to visit. It sits a little way out of the western, historic city of Szczecin. As you can probably guess from the name, the forest is full of curved trees that look a bit like upside-down question marks. And how over 400 Pine trees in the middle of a forest they got that way is still a mystery – although one theory is that the trees were shaped like that by Polish workers who wanted to use them for shipbuilding.
15. Matka Canyon, Macedonia
You don’t have to go to the tropics to experience paradise. Just a few miles from the Macedonian capital city of Skopje lies Matka Canyon, a stunning gorge which is filled with clear waters and one of the largest cave systems in the world. It’s perfect for a European trip off the beaten track. Visitors and locals come to get away from urban life for hiking, kayaking,diving and rock climbing.
The canyon is also home to many species of butterflies, as well bats. There are five restaurants spread around the canyon, so you can factor in cliffside food and drinks on dinner in a cave restaurant into your itinerary. Matka Canyon ranks number 15 in our top 50 best places in Europe to visit
16. Tallinn, Estonia
For a mix of city break and nature getaway, Tallinn is a great shout. It’s a small city, with beautiful forests on its doorstep. And you can also hop over to the islands of Naissar, Prangli, and Aegna easily from Tallinn Bay too. Wander around the Old Town for cobbled medieval streets, beautiful architecture, and some of the city’s best places to eat like Rataskaevu 16 and III Draakon. Head up to the Kohtuotsa Viewing Platform for views over the city including the harbour, bell towers, and red slate rooftops. Switch from medieval to modern at Telliskivi Creative City which is hub restaurants, music venues, cafés and street art.
If you want to escape into nature, visit Jägala waterfall, particularly in the winter, or wander around Sooma National Park where you can book a canoe tour, and go hiking around a bog – just remember to hire shoes so you don’t get stuck in the mud or snow depending on the season.
17. Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic
Lots of people come to Karlovy Vary on day trips from Prague to take a dip in some of Europe’s best hot springs. There are 15 restorative hot spas dotted around the city, including up in the hills. It’s a very beautiful city too, full of grand, pastel-coloured Bohemian architecture surrounded by forests.
For the best city meets nature views, head to the hillside lookouts like the Diana Observation Tower. Visit in July for the Karlovy Vary Film Festival – one of the biggest in Europe. Head out of the city for forest hikes in the Krušnohorská magistrála, and walk along the Tepla River.
18. Rotterdam, Holland
Just like Utrecht, Holland’ssecond city’ is worth more than just being tacked onto an Amsterdam trip. It’s full of mind-bending, futuristic architecture like the vibrant yellow cubic houses that jut into the sky tilted at a 45-degree angle. The city is also great for art lovers, with loads of classic and contemporary museums, galleries, and outdoor sculptures including the Witte de Witth Centre for Contemporary Art.
As it’s a Dutch city, get on your bike – they’re cheap to hire (around €9 a day) and you can cycle out to the countryside to visit the famous windmills at Kinderdijk, buy cheese at the market at Gouda and past sweet-scented fruit trees if you visit in May. Rotterdam comes in at 18 in our best places in Europe to visit guide.
19. Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Croatia is well known for its beautiful beaches, but one of the most unique places to visit is Plitvice Lakes. It’s a stunning national park, and the oldest in Croatia – with beautiful turquoise lakes, waterfalls, caves, and hiking trails. Plitvice Lakes is easy to do as a day trip from either Zagreb or Split.
Although the water is inviting, swimming isn’t allowed as it’s a UNESCO site, so it’s all about hikes and incredible scenery. And don’t forget to pack snacks – the only options are a small supermarket by Entrance One and a few fast food places.
20. Bregenz, Austria
The west of Austria is home to the mountainous Vorarlberg state, and Bregenz is its lakeside capital. Lake Constance, (Bodensee) is one of Europe’s largest freshwater lakes, and it has parts in other Alpine regions including Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. Bregenz is a 2,000-year-old city that’s perfect for a chilled trip wandering through medieval streets and escaping into beautiful Alpine nature.
The city sits between the lake and the Pfänder mountain, so you can take the cable car up to hike along rugged trails and gaze over the stunning countryside with up to 240 mountain peaks. Heading into the countryside outside of Bregenz, you can also visit the hillside Schattenberg Castle, one of the best-preserved medieval castles in central Europe.
21. Ksamil, Albania
Sitting along the Albanian Riviera is the small village of Ksamil. People visit for some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. It has four uninhabited islands with secluded sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. But it’s not just a place to lie on the beach all day, there’s plenty to explore close by – and it’s definitely worth taking a couple of road trips. One of the closest is the Butrint, which is about a 10 minute drive. The UNESCO World Heritage site was an ancient city that first belonged to the Greeks, then Romans came along, then finally it was taken over by bishops in Epirus.
A bit further away, about an hour’s drive from Ksamil is Syri I Kalter (also known as The Blue Eye) – it’s a water spring and natural phenomenon. Its light blue water is so clear, you’ll be able to see straight to the bottom of the 50ft deep pool.
22. Amalfi Coast, Italy
The famous 31 mile stretch of coastline close to Naples ranks number 22 in our top 50 best places in Europe to visit. Go in early Spring or Autumn, and you can explore the Amalfi Coast’s colourful winding streets, rugged coastal views, and stunning sunsets at a calmer pace, in balmy temperatures. Especially if you find some of its lesser-known spots. People flock to Positano and Amalfi, and with good reason.
But fewer people know about Atrani, which sits between two cliffs and is the smallest hamlet in the south of Italy. It’s a pastel-hued fishing village that looks untouched by modern life, filled with cobbled streets, where you can just marvel at the beauty of it all and unwind with food and drinks at the Piazza Umberto, Atrani’s main square. Another of the Amalfi Coasts more hidden gems is the village of Praiano, where you can also take a hike along the Sentiero Degli Dei (Path of the Gods) that leads to the Lattari mountains.
23. Porto, Portugal
Another ‘second city’ that more than holds its own against the capital is Porto. The ancient, picturesque, hilly city on the banks of the river Douro is full of architecture, great food, beautiful natural parks, and of course, a lot of Port. The hills are pretty steep, but it’s worth winding your way up to some of the less touristy neighbourhoods high above the river. And there are lots of great bars and places to eat tucked down the side streets, away from the main drag at Ribeira.
Walk across the Dom Luis I Bridge (designed by Gustav Eiffel, if the architecture looks like a more famous European landmark), to cross over to Vila Gaia De Nova to visit the port caves and wander around some less busy medieval streets. Take a tram to Foz De Douro for a beautiful coastal walk. Porto comes in at 23 in our best places in Europe to visit guide.
24. Transylvania, Romania
Most people know it as the stomping ground of a certain vampire, but the Eastern European destination stretches far beyond the forests surrounding Castle Dracula. It’s a large region in the heart of Romania with lots to explore from stunning landscapes, medieval castles (including Bran Castle, the one linked to Dracula) as well as citadel ruins, fortified settlements and salt mines.
You can also do some pretty serious hiking and spot landmarks like the Bucegi Natural Park, although do your research or do it like an organised trip because of roaming brown bears. If you’re taking a road trip, head to the Transfagarasan Highway, an amazing mountain road with incredible views of Transylvania’s great plains. Transylvania ranks number 24 in our top 50 best places in Europe to visit.
25. Budapest, Hungary
Thermal spas, ruin bars (bars in the ruins of abandoned buildings, not the state you’ll be in when you leave, although that’s up to you!), and a mix of different architecture styles are some of the reasons why Budapest is such a great European destination. For pretty views of the Danube, take a stroll over The Chain Bridge. Once you’ve explored city landmarks like the Jewish Quarter, Dohány Street Synagogue, and the Hungarian Opera House, take a wander to some of Budapest’s outdoor places.
Buda Castle is a 13th-century palace that sits high on a hill, it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visit Memento Park which is full of statues and memorabilia from the communist period in Hungary. For a little oasis away from the city, visit Margaret Island, a lush green island on the Danube, it’s not very big but you can stretch your legs more by climbing the Art Nouveau water tower and look over the Buda Hills.
26. Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
One of Europe’s hidden gems is Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria, especially if you love historic cities that are close to nature. It’s one of Bulgaria’s oldest settlements, where you can visit the imposing Tsaret Fortress, stroll along the river Yantra, and go to the Assenov quarter on the edge of a pine forest.
There is good hiking to be done in Veliko Tarnovo. And there are plenty of hikes that start right from the city itself, including the Sveta Gora Park, where a steep walk pays off with stunning views. But if you want to venture further out you can go on the eco-trail at Emen Canyon, the Lyaskovets monastery trail or the Kartala waterfalls trail.
27. Paris, France
What more can be written about Paris that hasn’t been written a thousand times. It’s a beautiful city, of course. But then again, there’s the Paris beyond the obvious sights like the Eiffel Tower and joining long queues at the Louvre. For interesting urban walking, take a wander through The Petite Ceinture Railway, an abandoned railway line that predates the Paris Métro where colourful flowers peak through the old tracks and street art adorns old platforms.
You could easily spend a weekend in Paris just gallery hopping, but one of the more unusual spaces is 59 Rivoli, an infamous former squat turned legit studios with exhibits across 6 floors. It’s worth visiting the outside if you’re pushed for time, the facade is like an installation in itself. The gardens of Paris are rightly celebrated, but few people know about the Jardin Francs-Bourgeois-Rosiers, a secret garden tucked behind a 17th-century mansion in the Marais district. Paris comes in at 27 in our best places in Europe to visit guide.
28. Tbilisi, Georgia
In a country where Europe meets Asia, the Georgian capital is one of the world’s oldest settlements, with evidence of human habitation dating back to 4000 BC. The ancient city is full of historic and natural wonders. From thermal bath houses that date back to the 12th century, the Ottoman era Jumah Mosque, panoramic views at the Narikala Fortress, to the streets and buildings that tell stories of Tbilisi’s more recent communist past.
East and west meet in Tbilisi’s culinary offerings too, including Khinkali – Georgian soup dumplings, to be eaten in batches of 20, apparently. Leave the city to visit Uplistsikhe, a vast, ancient cave city for some serious hiking and exploring. Tbilisi is also relatively close to the incredible mountain region of Kazbegi, to take in the northern slopes of the Caucasus.
29. Crete, Greek Islands
The largest of the Greek Islands is so vast it has two airports Depending on how long you go for, and what you want to see, you’ll need to choose whether to fly into Chania or Heraklion. Neither of them will disappoint, with stunning scenery, delicious food, and remnants of ancient civilizations. But there are a few more unspoilt, less touristy places to explore in Chania.
If you want to escape large tourist groups, head to the golden sands and lack of crowds at Xerokambos, a beach surrounded by mountains. Chania is also home to the Agria Irini in the west of the White Mountains. Apokournous is a little slice of Cretan paradise too, especially the shimmering freshwater lake of Lake Kouros..
30. The Val D’orcia, Italy
The whole region of Tuscany in central Italy is worth spending time exploring for the history, culture, and of course, the food. But if you’ve experienced the many sights and tastes of Florence, Lucca and Siena, then head to the unspoilt valley of Val D’orcia. Then you can get up close to Tuscan nature and see for yourself what the renaissance painters loved so much.
Val D’Orcia takes its name from the Orcia River that runs through it, and the area is a preserved natural park and cultural park. You can easily spend the time on a regional wine and cheese tour, but there are also 14th-century fortresses, ancient villages, and old castles to explore. Head up to the tower at Rocca Di Tententanno for incredible views over the Tuscan landscape.
.31. The Lake District, England
The area close to the Scottish border has some of the UK’s most jaw-dropping scenery. And while The Lake District does have many great lakes, it isn’t just about the abundant waters. The area was shaped during the last Ice Age, creating dramatic, steep, U-shaped valleys. A visit to any of the major lakes like Windermere or Grassmere to see the rolling, green landscapes that inspired poets like William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. But for serious hiking and the most iconic views, you have to hike Scafell Pike or Helvellyn.
Scafell Pike is the highest mountain in England, and although mountain peaks here are small compared with many of Europe’s mountain ranges, it’s still a challenging route involving scree slopes, so you’ll need to be pretty experienced. Helvellyn is easier by comparison, but you’ll still get some over six hours of hiking and a knockout view. The Lake District is England’ largest National Park and home to an abundance of wildlife including the endangered red squirrel, Arctic char fish, red deer, peregrine falcon’s and the other nest pairs of golden eagles and ospreys in the UK. The Lake District ranks 31 in our best places in Europe to visit guide.
.32. Bratislava, Slovakia
The compact capital of Slovakia sits on the banks of the Danube and is surrounded by forests, hills, and lakes. So you can fit in plenty of city culture and nature walking in a short space of time. The city has a bit of a rowdy reputation as a stag do destination, so mid-week trips are probably a safer bet. But Bratislava is also full of interesting and contrasting architecture including Baroque, Art Nouveau, and Socialist Realist (the official architecture from the Stalinist regime).
A short bus trip out of Bratislava takes you to Devin where you can visit castle ruins and visit the memorial to the Iron Curtain and find concrete bunkers behind some bushes. Venturing out of the city, you can also visit one of the small vineyards nestled in The Little Carpathian Hills and grab food at one of the local bistros..
33. London, England
For such a sprawling, urban mega-city, London is incredibly green and wild in parts. In 2019 it became a National Park City, an initiative to make cities greener, healthier and wilder. It’s also a truly international city from the people, the culture, and the food. London is where old meets new from iconic buildings from historic sites to world-famous venues like Ronnie Scotts and The 100 Club.
The doors of museums, galleries and venues may be shut for a while, but London’s green spaces bring much-needed escapism and exploration for locals and visitors alike. The city is filled with huge parks and green areas like Hampstead Heath, the colourful blooms of Isabella Plantation, long river walks, Walthamstow Wetlands. It’s full of urban wildlife – you can see flamingos strutting around in Kensington Gardens, green parakeets flying in Hyde Park and if you look up on to the rooftops of the Tate Modern, you might just spot a peregrine falcon or two circling above.
35. Tatra National Park, Poland
Nestled in the Tatra Mountains in Poland about 70 miles south of Krakow, Tatra National Park is a haven for hikers and nature lovers. Named one of CNN’s most beautiful national parks in the world, there is a lot to explore, including over 600 caves, large lakes, challenging hiking trails, rugged mountain peaks, waterfalls and wildlife.
Tatra National Park is home to endemic and endangered species, and you might bespot brown bears, grey wolves, Eurasian lynx, and European otters. It’s also a much cheaper alternative to popular Alpine destinations where you’ll experience breathtaking mountain views and stay in cosy lodges without the high price tag.
36. Tresco, Isles of Scilly, England
The turquoise waters, sandy beaches and palm trees of the Isles of Scilly look more like somewhere deep in the Mediterranean or even the Caribbean than England. But the archipelago off the Cornish coast has a micro-climate, and Tresco, its second-largest island is home to subtropical sandy beaches and lush gardens, as well as rugged coastal walks, ancient monuments and castles.
Tresco’s Abbey Gardens is a stunning, subtropical gem, which is home to more than 20,000 exotic plants from all over the world including Brazil and New Zealand and filled with colourful flowers. The north of Tresco is more rugged if you want to go exploring, and the centre of the island is home to bird hides and freshwater pools. But beyond the sunny skies and sandy beaches, Tresco has a dark maritime past, and if you’re interested in stories and artefacts from the sea, visit the Valhalla Museum (inside the Abbey Gardens) to see figureheads salvaged from shipwrecks. Tresco ranks 36 in our best places in Europe to visit guide.
37. Black Sea Coast, Bulgaria
Also known as the Bulgarian Riviera, the Black Sea Coast is over 200 miles of coastline that is home to beautiful ancient cities, secluded beaches, old fortresses and mysterious archaeological sites. Perfect for a road trip filled with adventure and exploration with plenty of budget campsites and small villas to stay in. One of the main coastal cities is Varna, which dates back to 4600 BC and is worth visiting for the Roman Baths, a cave monastery, bizarre rock formations and if you venture a bit further, you can visit Pobitli Kamani also known as the Stone Forest.
It’s also Bulgaria’s only desert, and one of the ones in the whole of Europe, and it’s filled with around 300 limestone pillars that are over 50 million years old. Varna is also a good base for visiting Ovech Fortress Elsewhere along the Black Sea Coast, you can also visit the ancient city of Nessebar which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has been fortified since Roman times filled with ancient churches, monasteries, and incredible views.
38. Ille-Sur-Têt, France
The beauty of the South of France is no secret. But it is also home to the lesser-known natural wonder Orgues of Ille-sur-Têt. Meaning organs, the Orgues are incredible rock formations that have the appearance of fairy chimneys at the highest peak of the Pyrenees Orientale. You can’t walk on the fragile rocks but travel south to wander through Gorge de la Fou and follow the trail that leads to the slopes of Mount Canigou. The whole region is dotted with picturesque villages and filled with deep valleys
39. Provence, France
France is the most visited country in the world, and yes there are a lot of beautiful regions to choose from. But the large southern region of Provence is incredibly varied, with great weather. It’s perfect for a road trip around some of the country’s most beautiful villages, heritage sites, stunning countryside, gorgeous coasts, and natural wonders. Provence is an incredibly colourful area too, in the summer fields bloom with lavender and sunflowers, and you could easily plan a trip around the Provençal food and wine feasting on plates bouillabaisse (a fish and seafood stew from Marseille), ratatouille, and local produce at the daily market at Aix En Provence.
Villages like the Venasque overlooking the Nesque river canyons are considered and the medieval hilltop Gordes are considered to be some of the most beautiful in France. Provence is home to rugged natural wonders too, like Calanques which is a dramatic series of inlets along the coast. And if you want to venture a bit off the beaten track, there are some amazing lakes and rivers under waterfalls for wild swimming in places like Pont Du Gard and Sillans La Cascade.
40. Comino, Malta
Comino is the smallest inhabited island in the Maltese archipelago with only three permanent residents. Most people come to Comino for the crystal clear waters of the Blue Lagoon, and it gets pretty crowded in the summer months. But plan a weekday visit off-season and you can visit to swim or in the azure waters, or hike up to Saint Mary’s Tower and marvel at the island’s rock formations.
People often go to Comino for a day trip as it’s only a 30-minute boat ride from the mainland. And you can hike the whole island in a day, but there’s also a campsite where you pitch your tent for free if you want to stay longer. Comino is also a bird sanctuary and nature reserve, where you’ll see reptiles like the Moorish Gecko and Maltese Wall Lizard as well as lots of birdlife. Comino ranks 40 in our best places in Europe to visit guide.
41. Lisbon, Portugal
The city of seven hills on the banks of the River Tagus is one of the most beautiful and historic cities in Europe. From the bustle and cheap bars of Barrio Alto to incredible views from Miradouros and with beaches close by – it’s no wonder it’s become more popular with visitors and remote workers in recent years.
Lisbon is also one of the greenest European capital cities, where you can wander through the 19th-century botanical garden Jardim do Torel, and check out the sculptures at Gulbenkian Gardens, or go hiking in the Parque Florestal de Monsanto. Escape the crowds by taking a wander up to Miradouro de Santa Catarina, one of Lisbon’s less well-known viewpoints.
42. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana is a rare European city. The capital of Slovenia is a historic city that hasn’t succumbed to over-tourism. And its central location makes it a great base for seeing other interesting parts of the country. The city is filled with interesting architecture from Roman remnants to Baroque and Renaissance buildings. It’s also got an alternative arts scene, so you can follow street art trails and visit Metelkova an old barracks which is now artists studios displaying off the wall sculptures (literally), and huge mosaics and it’s also home to bars and music venues too.
A short trip outside of Ljubljana’s ancient city wall and you can be hiking in the Kamnip Alps, with postcard-perfect mountain views and forest trails. The nearby countryside is also great for cyclists, where you take full or half-day tours of the marshes and Lake Podpeč. You’ll be able to cycle around lakes and visit picturesque villages, national parks, waterfalls, and gorges.
43. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The area suffered hugely during the Balkans war in the 1990s, but has recovered and become one of the country’s most visited places. Mostar’s most famous landmark is Stari Most, a 16th Century Ottoman-built bridge that crosses the Neretva river. During the summer months, you might catch professional drivers leaping off it into the river below. The atrocities suffered by Mostar during the conflict are still relatively recent in the city’s history, and the ‘Don’t Forget Stone’ serves as an important reminder for visitors.
But some of the most remarkable sites lie beyond the city. A few miles outside of Mostar is Blagag Tekija, a holy site that has been home to an ancient brotherhood of Dervishes for more than 600 years. It’s tucked under a cliff at the source of River Buna, which is possibly why it escaped damage from conflict. Just south of Mostart and you’ll come to the incredible Kravice Waterfalls, which aren’t (yet) well known among tourists. So you’ll be able to explore its natural beauty at your own pace and breathe in the forest air and take a refreshing dip right under the falls. Mostar ranks 43 in our best places in Europe to visit guide.
44. Barcelona, Spain
The capital of Catalonia doesn’t really need an introduction as a top European destination. A city that doesn’t really sleep, where there is interesting architecture on every corner, lush green spaces, and some of the best galleries, restaurants and music festivals in the world. It’s easy to get around too. Once you’ve dodged the crowds at the Ramblas, you can explore the medieval alleyways of the Gothic Quarter, and make your way around the city’s landmarks like La Sagrada Familia, grabbed food at the Boqueria Market and looked down over the city from Parc Guell.
But for truly stunning views, venture beyond the city on a short train ride to Monserrat. It’s a Benedictine Monastery, nestled within a rugged mountain range. It’s also a great place for a mountain hike with amazing views across Catalonia. Barcelona is also close to the coastal town of Sitges and the Roman ruins at Tarragona.
45. Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden
A visit to the Swedish capital means you can combine a European city break with island hopping too. For locals, it’s the best of the urban and rural coastal living. The Stockholm Archipelago is made up of 30,000 islands, and the closest one is only 20 minutes away from the city centre. Swedes and foreign tourists alike visit the island for kayaking, hiking, camping, and just generally appreciating nature.
Visiting off-season in the Autumn to take advantage of fewer people, and take long forest walks, and you might spot deer, foxes, rabbits and badgers on your wandering. Accommodation is also cheaper then too, which is a bonus. For a winter getaway, visit Värmdö, the largest island where you can go cross-country skiing.
46. Matterhorn, Switzerland
Sitting on the Swiss-Italian border, the 14,692 ft mountain the Matterhorn is one of the highest peaks in the Alps. You can find out about the mountaineering history of the famous mountain at Matterhorn Museum, in Zermatt, the famous ski resort town at its base. Although many ill-fated attempts were made by climbers in the 19th century, these stunning Alpine views are much more easily accessible.
For the best views, you can either take the Gornergratbahn cogwheel railway or zip up on the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise to Klein Matterhorn – Europe’s highest cable car station. Both options also offer great stops for exploring winding, glacial hiking trails like the Matterhorn Glacier Trail (the halfway station stop if you’re taking the cable car). Matterhorn ranks 46 in our best places in Europe to visit guide.
47. Gauja National Park, Latvia
A short drive from the capital Riga takes you to Gauja National Park, which is around 230 acres of green forest and the largest national park in Latvia. It’s a highly biodiverse park, filled with forest trails and a haven for hikers and nature lovers. The lush green park is also filled with rock formations, cliffs and caves as well as an abundance of wildlife.
There are many species of mammals in Gauja National Park although some are easier to spot, but with a bit of planning, you might see stags, elk, wolves, lynx, otters and bats. The national park is also a good base for other activities like kayaking on the river Gauja, exploring some of the surrounding medieval castles, and even bobsleighing.
48. Verdon Gorge, France
We’ve already highlighted the whole region of Provence, but if you’re short on time and want to pick one natural wonder in the region, head to Verdon Gorge. Also known as The Grand Canyon of Europe, it’s a river canyon in central Province with some of the area’s most jaw-droppingly dramatic scenery, and the deepest gorge in France.
Visitors come for rugged and untamed landscapes, hiking trails, deep limestone valleys and to see birds of prey like eagles and vultures circling above. The vibrant turquoise waters of the bottom is also a great place to come for river canoeing, kayaking and rafting. You can also hire small boats to gently drift through the gorge. For wild swimming, head to the St Croix and Castillion lakes. Verdon Gorge ranks 48 in our best places in Europe to visit guide.
49. Corsica, France
The fourth-largest island in the Mediterranean has some of the most varied landscapes in the whole of Europe. It was ruled by the Republic of Genoa between the 13th and 18th centuries, but has been part of France since 1796 although Italian culture is still present on the island alongside the French. Corsica is also the home of the challenging GR20 trail, with the reputation for being the hardest long-distance trek in Europe. Considering that 75% of people fail to complete the mountainous course that spans the length of Corsica, it’s one for serious hikers only.
But if you don’t fancy a two-week-long trek, there is plenty more history and nature to explore on the island. You can visit bronze age ruins to see over 200 megaliths at Palaggiu, and if scuba diving is your thing then visit Scandola Nature Reserve, and take in the dramatic views from the fortress in Cotre.
50. Copenhagen, Denmark
The stylish, and apparently incredibly happy Danish capital offers a European City break with a mix of urban life and natural beauty. Whether you’re visiting for architecture, canal wandering, or visiting galleries – the best way to get around is to act like a Dane and get on a bike. On hot days, you can cool off at one of the free outdoor baths like The Kastrup Sea Bath, or the ‘Copencanbana’ aka Fisketorvet baths.
The city itself is full of green spaces like The King’s Garen and Ørstedsparken, but Amager Beach is a short bike ride away. You can also rent kayaks and paddleboards there. Copenhagen is also a short train ride away from Kronborg castle, which was the inspiration for Elsinore in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. And for wilder landscapes, visit Anholt, an island in the middle of the Kattegat sea which is covered in wildflowers which is also Northern Europe’s largest desert. Copenhagen ranks 50 in our best places in Europe to visit guide.