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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 spots are the best places to visit in Europe 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. Meanwhile, if you're searching for a European cruise, check out our Best Europe Cruise Deals, and if you're seeking lodging, head to our Best Hotels in Europe ranking » (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)
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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, wandering through exhibits at the Louvre and strolling through the beautiful green space admiring flowers at Luxembourg Gardens. 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 decadent French meal with amazing wine.
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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 or a Sunday roast 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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Rome 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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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 at an outdoor eatery.
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Barcelona's diverse architecture sets the city apart from other European destinations. Gaudí's Park Güell and La Sagrada Família 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, sample a smattering of tasty local tapas or sip sangria along Las Ramblas.
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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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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 and 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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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 encounter stunning views of the electric blue sea and whitewashed buildings Santorini is famous for. Santorini is also known for its exquisitely swanky hotels, so you'll want to save up to stay in one.
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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 Fiordo di Furore 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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Swiss Alps#10 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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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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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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Spain's capital has all of 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 Real Madrid soccer match, too, and don't miss strolling through lush El Retiro Park or taking a tour of the Royal Palace of Madrid.
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The capital city of Sweden is characterized by colorful buildings and snaking waterways. Summer is the optimal time to visit Stockholm to enjoy the pleasant temperatures (with highs in the 60s and 70s) and take advantage of outdoor activities like strolling through the parks at Djurgården and hopping on a boat tour to admire the cityscape. What's more, the city's charming, cobblestone-lined Old Town features numerous top attractions, such as the Stockholm Cathedral and the Royal Palace, in addition to cafes, shops and restaurants.
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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 Storehouse 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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Situated off of 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 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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The capital of Hungary is filled with an assortment of monuments, museums and religious sites. Visit Fisherman's Bastion – a neo-Gothic, fairy tale-like structure – to admire its architectural beauty and take in panoramic views of the city from the building's terrace. No stay in Budapest would be complete without checking out the city's 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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Copenhagen is full of everything from top-notch museums (featuring art and history) to incredible castles and palaces for visitors to explore. Must-visit spots include Christiansborg Palace, Tivoli Gardens amusement park and the central Nyhavn neighborhood. The city itself is certainly eye-catching, with its bold, colorful buildings overlooking the river. There are a few excellent ways to see Copenhagen as well, such as renting a bike or taking a walking or Segway tour.
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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 variety of dining options around every corner. And don't forget to pack a few layers; travelers are required to cover up when visiting the Blue Mosque and other religious sites.
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With beautiful Gothic, art nouveau and Baroque architecture, and a variety of museums to visit, Brussels is an ideal getaway for culture hounds. Visitors can spend numerous days wandering through the city center, snacking on tasty frites and dipping sauces, and admiring the incredible facades. When it's time to head indoors, the Musical Instruments Museum, the Horta Museum and the Museum of Natural Sciences are sure to impress adults and kids alike.
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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. Visitors should pencil in time to see the colorful Portuguese azulejo tiles at the National Tile Museum and tour the Monastery of St. Jerome in the Belém district.
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Edinburgh is best known for its hilly landscape, thick Scottish accent 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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Lake Como#25 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.