Best Places to Visit in Europe
From England and France to Italy and Germany, European countries are full of vibrant cities known for their museums, restaurants, nightlife and architecture. So, it comes as no surprise that deciding which ones to visit can be difficult. That's why U.S. News considered the highlights of each destination – as well as user votes and expert opinions – to round up the best vacation destinations in Europe. Use this list to help you plan your next trip, and cast your vote below to have a say in next year's list. And if you're seeking lodging, head to our Best Hotels in Europe ranking »
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Roma is a can't-miss spot on your trip to Europe. The aroma of fresh Italian cooking wafts through the alleys, and historical sites stand proudly at every turn. No visit to Italy's capital would be complete without checking out the Colosseum, St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the awe-inspiring Trevi Fountain. If you have additional time, venture beyond the main sights to the Roman Forum, Trastevere and the Spanish Steps.
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Exploring the world-class British Museum, seeing a musical in the West End, touring the Tower of London and gorging on fish and chips at a local pub are all part of the London bucket list experience. However, London's high hotel prices can make budget travelers cringe. To save some money, book your accommodations far in advance or consider a vacation rental.
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Paris is filled with highly regarded museums, monuments and churches. You could easily spend your entire vacation admiring iconic sights like the Eiffel Tower and wandering through exhibits at the Louvre. Still, you should save some time for people-watching and munching on fresh croissants at sidewalk cafes during the day. Once the sun sets, sit down for a drawn-out meal with amazing wine.
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Travel to Firenze for an authentic taste of Italy. Florence boasts top-notch museums, quaint hotels, stunning architecture and mouthwatering cuisine. Must-dos include admiring Michelangelo's David at the Galleria dell'Accademia, taking in city and river views from the Ponte Vecchio and climbing to the top of the Duomo – Florence's most recognizable attraction. When hunger strikes, head to the Mercato Centrale Firenze to stock up on fresh meats and cheeses or sit down for pizza or gelato.
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Barcelona's diverse architecture sets the city apart from other European destinations. Gaudí's Park Güell and La Sagrada Familia are beyond impressive, as are Catedral de Barcelona (also known as La Seu), Montjuïc Castle and the many medieval buildings in the Gothic Quarter. When you tire of taking in the city's stunning architecture, relax on La Barceloneta beach, eat local food (tapas) or sip sangria along Las Ramblas.
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There's more to Amsterdam than its notorious "coffee shops" and Red Light District. Spend the day biking through the city's stylish streets before exploring noteworthy museums, such as the Van Gogh Museum, Verzetsmuseum or the Anne Frank House. Plan a picnic in Vondelpark for lunch, or opt for a boat tour along the city's many canals when it's time to rest your feet. Friendly locals and affordable hotels keep bringing travelers back, especially during the warmer months.
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A vacation in Prague will leave you feeling as if you've stepped into a fairy tale. Take in the Gothic architecture and vibrant atmosphere of Old Town Square, and be sure to tour Prague Castle (and the other attractions on its grounds, including St. Vitus Cathedral and the Royal Palace). Prague's affordability compared to other captivating destinations in Europe makes it a great place for travelers on a budget.
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Visit this Greek island for its abundance of diverse beaches. You'll find red sands at Red Beach and black sands at Kamari Beach. You should also save a day to travel to archaeological attractions like Ancient Thira and Ancient Akrotiri, where you’ll discover ruins and abandoned settlements from the ninth and 17th centuries B.C. (respectively). No matter where you go, you'll discover stunning views of the electric blue sea and whitewashed buildings Santorini is known for.
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Travel to this coastal region in Italy for once-in-a-lifetime views of the Mediterranean Sea from beautiful cliffside towns. Spend your days hiking the nearly 4-mile-long Il Vallone delle Ferriere trail, wandering the dreamy streets of Positano or retreating to more secluded places like Furore Fiordo beach. To soak up even more sun, consider an Amalfi Coast boat tour, which may stop at points of interest like the Emerald Grotto and the waterfalls of Marmorata.
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Venice may conjure up images of romantic gondola rides down the Grand Canal, but this European destination isn't just for swooning lovebirds. With an abundance of theaters, churches, historical sights and eateries, this city on Italy's northeastern coast will enchant all types of travelers. View opulent architecture at St. Mark's Basilica, stroll across the famous Rialto Bridge or snap a photo in front of the iconic Bridge of Sighs.
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Athens was made for history buffs and architecture aficionados, but it also serves as a great European getaway for the everyday travel guru. The capital's laid-back lifestyle and incredible food attract the masses just as much as the world-class Acropolis and Parthenon do. As you tour around, be sure to stroll through the historical neighborhood of Plaka, where you'll find restaurants, cafes and charming shops.
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Swiss Alps#12 in Best Places to Visit in Europe
Located south of Zurich, Bern and Basel, the Swiss Alps are a haven for winter sports enthusiasts. While skiing, hiking and snowboarding tend to dominate this region, you'll also discover quaint towns, serene lakes and gorgeous scenery. Luxury mountain resorts are available throughout the region as well, making it a playground for all sorts of travelers. Additionally, no trip to the Swiss Alps would be complete without indulging in some warm, gooey cheese fondue.
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This storied Austrian city is best known for its music and monarchs. Explore the Habsburg family's Schönbrunn Palace and stop into the House of Music museum while strolling through the Innere Stadt (Inner City). Art lovers should head to the MuseumsQuartier Wien to tour the Museum of Modern Art, while opera fans will likely enjoy touring or watching a performance at the Vienna State Opera.
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Sitting along the French Riviera, Nice offers something for every type of traveler. Spend your days visiting museums, churches and ruins, shopping until you drop or simply relaxing on the warm Mediterranean shores. Nice's vibrant nightlife scene will please most partiers, and visitors seeking out quaint streets will love the charming neighborhood of Old Town. For gorgeous garden views, be sure to check out the Garden of the Cimiez Monastery.
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Dublin is the most populous city in Ireland and has long been a popular vacation spot for beer drinkers and history buffs. Home to the Guinness headquarters and the Jameson Distillery, the city also boasts a plethora of pubs. Meanwhile, non-drinkers will want to head to the boutiques along Grafton Street and check out kid-friendly areas like the sprawling St. Stephen's Green and the Dublin Zoo.
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The Azores#16 in Best Places to Visit in Europe
Situated off the coast of Lisbon, this Portuguese archipelago is only about a four- to six-hour flight from parts of the East Coast of the U.S. Travelers can fly nonstop to Ponta Delgada airport from Boston and New York City via a few different airlines. São Miguel Island, the largest and most populated island in the Azores, is a lush paradise with waterfalls, lakes and quaint churches waiting to be explored.
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Lake Como#17 in Best Places to Visit in Europe
Located in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, Lake Como has long been a haven for artists, celebrities and travelers looking to disconnect and truly relax. You'll unwind in no time while wandering down the cobblestone streets, exploring palatial villas and lounging alongside Lake Como's serene shores. Just keep in mind: A stay here won't come cheap, so plan accordingly.
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The capital of Hungary is filled with an assortment of monuments, museums and religious sites. Visit Fisherman's Bastion – a neo-Gothic, fairy-tale structure – to admire its architectural beauty and take in panoramic views of the city from the building's terrace. No stay in the City of Spas would be complete without checking out its world-renowned thermal baths, which are heated by natural thermal springs.
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More than two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany's capital city boasts everything from museums and fashion to food and nightclubs. History buffs should check out the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Topography of Terror and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, while art enthusiasts will likely love visiting Museum Island, which is a cluster of five different museums.
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Though Munich may be the most expensive city in Germany, you'll find a fair amount of things to do that don't require opening your wallet. Free attractions include the English Garden, a variety of churches and Marienplatz, with street performers, vendors and restaurants selling bratwursts and beer. For a true German beer experience, head to one of the many biergartens scattered throughout the city.
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This laid-back Portuguese city welcomes travelers with its colorful architecture, centuries-old buildings and castles, picturesque beaches and flavorful seafood. Nestled on top of seven hills, this charming European locale is known for its friendly residents and rolling terrain. Lisbon is very walkable, but if you don't want to hike up and down the sloping streets, take advantage of the city's efficient public transportation system.
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Skyscrapers stand next to historical monuments in Istanbul, an ancient city that boasts modern advances. Shopaholics fill the city's Grand Bazaar during the day, while partygoers head to local nightclubs in droves at night. Foodies will likely love the exotic dining options around every corner. And don't forget to pack a few layers; travelers are required to cover up when visiting the extravagant Blue Mosque and other religious sites.
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Edinburgh is best known for its hilly landscape, thick Scottish culture and abundance of historical sites. Stop into a neighborhood pub for fish and chips or – if you really want to feel like a local – a heaping portion of haggis. When your belly is full, wander around Arthur's Seat at the top of Holyrood Park for great views of the city below. Edinburgh Castle is another must-see, as is beautiful Calton Hill.
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Breathtaking Crete offers the sandy beaches and delicious Mediterranean food you'd expect to find on a Greek isle, plus soaring mountains, urban nightclubs, stylish boutiques and excellent hiking opportunities. Crete is larger than other islands in this archipelago, so make sure to plan out your itinerary and consider the best route before you head out to enjoy all the destination has to offer.
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Spain's capital has all the makings of a quintessential European vacation: stunning architecture, vibrant nightlife, world-class museums, luxury hotels and, of course, plenty of delicious Spanish food and drinks. But save some time for a flamenco show and a soccer match, too, and don't miss strolling through lush Buen Retiro Park or taking a tour of the Royal Palace of Madrid.
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