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Europe is home to 44 sovereign states, administering 51 beautiful countries, each with its own natural wonders, historic landmarks, fascinating traditions, exhilarating activities, and top attractions. From the spectacular scenery of the Swiss Alps and the French Riviera to the splendor of the Blue Mosque and St. Paul’s Cathedral, choosing the best destinations to visit is no easy task.
That’s why we’ve created a breakdown of the best countries in Europe to visit for different types of travelers. Whether you want to visit some of Europe’s most famous big cities or walk through the cobblestone streets of charming villages, we’ll help you find the ideal destination for your next trip.
TL;DR Best European Countries By Traveler Type
Okay, so nailing down the best European destinations or even your favorite city can be a tad subjective. That’s why we narrowed down our list of choices based on everything from the number of popular attractions in different areas to which countries get the most visitors each year.
We also know that one size doesn’t fit all, which is why we’ve attempted to include the best places in Europe to visit for different types of travelers.
Best Countries In Europe to Visit
Now, let’s get into it. Not only will we reveal why we suspect you’ll love each country, but even give you tips on top activities to check out during your travels.
Last but not least, we’ll help you get started on your quest for the perfect hotel by pointing you toward some of our favorites in each country. While all the countries on our list obviously include plenty of different lodging options, we’ll help you get started by narrowing down highly-rated choices.
From the gorgeous scenery of the Amalfi Coast to dynamic cities like Rome and Florence, Italy is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Europe. In the Northern part of the country, you’ll find the city of Milan, which is known throughout the world for its extraordinary fashion scene.
But you’ll quickly discover that the city is also packed with cultural treasures, such as the Duomo di Milan, a stunning Gothic cathedral and museum. About three hours to the east, you’ll find Venice, where cultural delights like the Basilica of St. Mark and the Doge’s Palace seem to rise from the waters of the city’s world-famous Grand Canal.
Around three hours southwest of Venice lies the city of Florence, which is well known among art lovers as a goldmine of Renaissance art and culture. Florence is packed with outstanding museums, such as the Academia Gallery (home of Michelangelo’s David), the Palazzo Pitti, and the Uffizi Gallery. And the dining scene here is legendary.
Florence also makes for a great home base for a road trip through Tuscany. Make sure you set aside a day to visit the famed Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Historic Centre of San Gimignano, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Then, of course, there’s Italy’s capital city of Rome. As you take in ancient structures such as the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill, you’ll have no problem understanding why Rome was once considered the unofficial capital of the world.
No matter what your personal background or beliefs, don’t miss the chance to visit the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, & St. Peter’s Basilica. These sites are packed with some of the world’s most priceless artwork and artifacts, not to mention awe-inspiring, millennia-old architecture.
Our Favorite Hotels in Italy :
See Related: Italy Itinerary: How to Plan 7-10 Days in Italy
There are many reasons why France is the most visited country in Europe – a few of which you’re probably familiar with, whether you’ve ever been to the country or not. The city of Paris alone is considered by many to be one of the best places to visit in Europe. With its countless sidewalk cafes and iconic sites like the Eiffel Tower and the grisly Catacombs, you’ll want a few days to make the most of the City of Light.
While the Louvre Museum is one popular destination you certainly shouldn’t miss, make sure you also take the time to soak up the culture of the Montmartre neighborhood. You’ll find a range of excellent Montmartre walking tours that include famous sites like the Moulin Rouge and the gorgeous Basilica du Sacré-Coeur.
Tours led by friendly locals can also be a great way to get an insider’s guide to the hidden gems of Paris’ legendary food and wine scene. Make sure you also reserve a day to explore the nearby gardens of Versailles, one of the world’s most decadent yet beautiful destinations.
If you’ve already taken in the sites of Paris, then you’ll find plenty of amazing places to visit along the French Riviera, the country’s southeast coastal region. Cannes and Nice are both situated right along the Mediterranean Sea and offer plenty of beautiful beaches to explore.
Either city also offers nearby access to the Principality of Monaco and surrounding villages such as Eze, one of my favorite small towns in France. Whether you attend the famous Cannes Film Festival, explore Nice’s charming Old Town, aka “Vieille Ville,” or relax on some of the best beaches in Europe, the French Riviera is one destination that won’t disappoint.
Our Favorite Hotels in France:
See Related: Best Hotels in Paris With a View of the Eiffel Tower
From quaint villages along the Baltic Sea to fairytale castles, Germany’s beautiful scenery is part of what makes it one of the best places to visit in Europe. Along the north, you’ll find cities such as Rostock, where you can explore stunning Gothic architecture or sail the Baltic coastline on a historic tall ship.
Further inland lies the city of Hamburg, a port city that the Elbe River connects to the North Sea. Hamburg has so much to offer that it’s worth looking into a City Pass, which offers free public transportation and discounts on over 150 attractions!
Then there is Berlin, Germany’s capital city, which is nestled in the northeastern part of the country. There you’ll have the chance to explore the city’s most powerful sites, such as the Berlin Wall and the Holocaust Memorial, or set out on a tour of hidden gems with a guided bike tour.
While Northern Germany has plenty to offer, Southern Germany and cities such as Munich are the best destinations if you want to visit Bavarian cultural landmarks and fairytale castles such as Neuschwanstein & Linderhof.
Munich is a truly magical city, well worth a vacation – especially if you love beer. Enjoy an evening of authentic Bavarian food and beer or explore attractions such as the Deutsche Museum and Alte Pinakothek art museum with a Munich City Pass. And then spend a night at the Platzl, or choose from one of our favorite Munich hotels!
Our Favorite Hotels in Germany:
See Related: 3 Days in Berlin: How to Spend 72 Hours and Spend it Richtig!
4. The Netherlands
The Netherlands is one of the best places to visit in Northwestern Europe if you enjoy spending time in the great outdoors. Even if you choose to stay in major hubs like Amsterdam, be sure to look into day trips to the Dutch countryside, where you’ll find stunning scenery dotted by tranquil windmills, sparkling lakes, colorful tulips, and charming villages.
Despite Amsterdam’s occasionally dodgy reputation (mostly thanks to bike thieves and unruly tourists misbehaving in De Wallen), the city is actually full of amazing sites and museums such as Rijksmuseum, The Anne Frank House, the Rembrandt House Museum, NEMO, and the Van Gogh Museum. Be sure you also take in the city’s sites from a cruise along its famous canals.
In fact, Amsterdam is such an amazing city I decided to make it my home. I love Amsterdam. It’s unique, weird, grand, understated, kooky, modern, historical, and above all, friendly.
I could write about Amsterdam for days. And I have; ViaTravelers has. From canal cruises to coffee shops, the best brown cafes, hotels, hostels, and nice restaurants – we’re only getting started!
In short, Amsterdam rocks, and if you only have the time or budget to visit one place in the Netherlands, make it Amsterdam. But from the cool port city of Rotterdam to the historic, traditional villages of Zaanse Schans, Volendam, and Marken and the Holland Islands like Texel, there is so much more to the Netherlands than just Amsterdam. And if you have the chance to explore more of the Netherlands, please do so.
Less than an hour to the southwest, you’ll find the oft-overlooked city of The Hague, the country’s seat of government and home to plenty of excellent museums. Explore the work of M.C. Escher at the Escher in the Palace Museum, or feast your eyes on works by Rembrandt & Vermeer inside the 17th-century Mauritshuis palace.
Our Favorite Hotels in the Netherlands
See Related: Best Hotels in the Netherlands | Top Places to Stay
Next up is Croatia, home to some of the best beaches on the Adriatic coastline. Plus, with plenty of stunning scenery, Croatia may just be among the best places to visit in Europe for nature enthusiasts. Croatia is fast becoming one of the most popular destinations for budget luxury vacations in Europe and a history buff’s dream come true.
Head to Dubrovnik, where to enjoy a day of kayaking on the crystal clear waters, complete with a journey through Betina Cave. Game of Thrones fans won’t want to miss this themed walking tour that includes a visit to see the official iron throne!
While the city of Zagreb tends to be a main tourist hub, it’s also a great home base for day trips to destinations like the beautiful Plitvice Lakes and Rastoke. The charming historic city of Split is also a worthy destination for a day or two.
It’s packed full of fascinating history, great food, and gorgeous scenery. It’s also a great base to explore more of the Adriatic coast, such as Hvar and Brač Island.
Our favorite hotels in Croatia:
See Related: Ways to Find Cheap Flights to Europe
No self-respecting list of the best countries to visit in Europe could possibly leave out Greece, the cradle of Western civilization. Those passionate about history will find plenty to love in Athens, home of the Acropolis, Temple of Zeus, and much more.
Set out on a fascinating day trip to the Delphi Archaeological Site or set out on a culinary journey through the city’s best restaurants. If you’re in search of an unforgettable beach holiday destination, then look no further than the immaculate waters and whitewashed buildings of the Greek Islands.
While you could easily spend weeks exploring the many wonderful beaches of the 227 Greek Islands, Santorini Island makes for a great home base for a relaxing retreat. Santorini is full of epic luxury hotels and resorts, not to mention luxury catamarans that offer small-group snorkeling cruises.
While you’re on the Island, check out some of Santorini’s finest wineries, complete with pita and tapas tasting. Explore the island’s highlights to find out firsthand why Greece is considered one of the world’s most beautiful countries.
But perhaps you’re looking for more of an “escape” rather than a “retreat,” in which case you should explore the Greek Islands’ party credentials. While Santorini is no slouch in the nightclub department, it’s places like Zakynthos and Mykonos where you can really lose yourself in the bar and club scene, with some of the world’s top DJs performing here.
Our Favorite Hotels in Greece:
See Related: Best Things to Do in Corfu, Greece
If you’re looking to spice things up on your next holiday, then head to Spain, another of Europe’s most visited countries. Home to a plethora of incredible galleries and museums, and no fewer than 47 UNESCO World Heritage sites, Spain is not only one of the best countries to visit in Europe but also among the most versatile.
In other words, Spain is one of those countries where different travelers could have completely different experiences, depending on the region they chose. In case you’d like to party on the country’s best beaches, beach hopping in Ibiza will not disappoint.
Ibiza is home to some of Spain’s best beaches and an incredibly energetic nightlife. You’ll also find plenty of chances to explore its natural wonders via snorkeling, swimming, or a sunset boat trip complete with champagne.
If you want a more family-friendly vibe, check out Barcelona, which you can explore via this fun (and eco-friendly) private tuk-tuk tour. Set out on a day trip to explore the surrounding Medieval Villages or listen to fascinating stories as you wind through Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter.
The elegant boulevards of Madrid, Spain’s capital, are a tourist attraction in their own right. Take a tour of the magnificent Royal Palace or head to the celebrated Prado Museum to take in works by Raphael, Goya, and more.
Our Favorite Hotels in Spain:
See Related: Best Things to do in Costa del Sol, Spain
While the country of Iceland is relatively small (about as big as the U.S. states of Kentucky or Virginia), it doesn’t skimp on spectacular natural attractions. Whether you’ve always dreamed of taking a dip in the Blue Lagoon or watching the Northern Lights, Iceland is one big bucket list begging to happen.
With its dramatic volcanoes, hot springs, and waterfalls, Iceland is one of the best countries for adventurers. See for yourself on the road! Set out on a full-day tour of the Golden Circle to take in some of the most spectacular sites Iceland provides.
We recommend Reykjavik, the island’s capital, as a home base due to its large number of museums, great restaurants, shops, and other attractions. If you find yourself in need of a city break, you’ll have no problems finding an adventure.
Head to Thingvellir National Park, where you can snorkel between the tectonic plates of North America and Europe. Or set out for a relaxing trip to Sky Lagoon, a geothermal spa with amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Our Favorite Hotels in Reykjavik:
See Related: Top Things to Do in Northern Iceland
Romania is quite possibly one of the most fascinating and mysterious places to visit in Europe. If it’s your first visit to the country, we’d recommend heading for Bucharest, the country’s capital and largest city.
Not only is it possible to find incredible hotels in Bucharest for very reasonable rates, but the city offers plenty of excellent tours to some of Romania’s most intriguing attractions. Head out on an epic journey through Transylvania, where you’ll see sites like Dracula’s Castle, Peles Castle, and Brasov.
Or explore the rich history of Bucharest itself on a guided bicycle tour of the city’s main highlights. Be sure to check out the best food the city has to offer, or join in on a pub crawl to check out Bucharest’s party scene.
Wind your way through the largest salt mine in Europe or brave the Transfagarasan, Romania’s notoriously windy road. Whether you want to take a cruise along the Danube River or explore Gothic castles, Romania is one of the best countries for making unforgettable memories.
Our Favorite Hotels in Bucharest:
See Related: Most Beautiful Fairy Tale Towns Around the World
10. The British Isles (the UK and Eire)
Alright, I’m cheating here! But you can’t very well visit England without hitting up Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland too. And if you’re visiting Ulster, you should certainly check out Eire while you’re at it.
That’s right! Enjoy a trip to a total of eight great countries, conveniently spread over two islands; (Great Britain and Ireland)! The five big countries consist of England, the Republic of Ireland (or Eire), Northern Ireland (sometimes referred to as Ulster), Scotland, and Wales. These five unique countries fall under two sovereign nations: The United Kingdom (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) and the Republic of Ireland.
Explore the most famous landmarks that London has to offer like the Tower of London and Elizabeth Tower. Then set out on a day trip to sites like Windsor Castle and Stonehenge, or a trip to the beautiful South English countryside as you explore Oxford, the Cotswolds, and pretty villages beyond.
If you feel like a completely different flavor of England, head North to Yorkshire, where you can explore the ancient city of York and roam the glorious Yorkshire Dales. Then there’s Liverpool, one of the most historically significant cities in England, and home of the Beatles!
Wales is a hiker’s dream, home to some of the British Isles’ most captivating natural beauty, incredible beaches, and some of its most ancient castles. It’s often overlooked by international tourists, making it a top destination for a true escape. Make sure to keep “Welsh” up on Google Translate!
It’s absolutely worth carving out a day or two to explore the beauty of the Scottish Highlands (where the men wear kilts) with a highlights tour through Loch Ness and Glencoe. For a cultural Lowland experience (where the men wear trews), check out a food tour in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh. And don’t you dare forget about the Scottish islands!
Then, of course, there’s the Emerald Isle or Ireland, which is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful countries in Europe (just don’t tell the Scots!). Northern Ireland is where you’ll find some of the most incredible natural wonders in the British Isles, from Giants Causeway and Dark Hedges to the Cliffs of Moher.
While the Atlantic coast of Northern Ireland offers some of the world’s most mesmerizing landscapes, the capital city of Belfast is home to historic murals and landmarks, the shipyard that built the RMS Titanic, not to mention this pedal-powered beer tour!
If you head down to Southern Ireland, then you’ll find lots of must-visit attractions in the capital, Dublin. Check out sites like the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Castle, and Trinity College, where you can see the illuminated manuscript of the Book of Kells. If you’re looking for a city break, then set out on a tour through ancient villages like Kilkenny and medieval sites like the monastery at Glendalough.
And if you managed to hit up the big five and are itching to see what else the British Isles have in store, check out the Isle of Man, along with the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey.
Our Favorite Hotels in the British Isles:
See Related: Where to Stay in London: The Ultimate List of Best Areas & Neighborhoods
Should international travelers get travel insurance?
While traveler insurance isn’t technically a requirement for U.S. or other international travelers, it’s highly recommended. Whether you’re looking for annual or single-trip coverage, having a solid travel insurance protection plan can be priceless when it comes to peace of mind.
What is public transportation like in Europe?
If you’re a first-time U.S. traveler, then you’ll likely be delighted by the public transportation options in many top European destinations. Most major European cities have such excellent trains, subways, and bus systems that there’s far less need to rely on private transportation.
What are the most beautiful countries in Europe?
It highly depends on who you ask! In terms of natural wonders, Iceland, Italy, and Spain are hard to beat. But France and the Greek Islands are also chocked full of stunning scenery.