Discover the best time to visit Europe and explore the best places to visit in European countries 🏆
Europe is home to some of the world’s most diverse and beautiful countries, making it an extremely popular travel destination. With so many amazing places to explore, deciding where to visit in Europe can be overwhelming. This article will highlight the top countries in Europe to add to your 2023 travel bucket list, along with the best times to visit each destination.
What is the Best Country in Europe to Visit?
Naming the single best country in Europe is nearly impossible with so many incredible options across the diverse continent. However, a few countries stand out for their stunning natural landscapes, rich cultural heritage, world-class cities, and overall memorable travel experiences.
Consistently ranking among the most popular places for tourists in Europe year after year, France, Italy and Spain take the top spots. Other excellent options include Greece, Croatia, Portugal, and Austria. The United Kingdom and Switzerland also deserve honorable mentions.
Ultimately, the “best” country depends on your personal travel style and interests. Foodies may prefer Italy, history buffs will be drawn to Greece, outdoorsy types could choose Norway, and so on. Read on for highlights of some of Europe’s most spectacular destinations.
What’s the Most Beautiful Country in Europe?
While beauty is subjective, a few European countries are almost universally praised for their good looks. Italy dazzles with cliffside villages, azure seas and vine-covered hills. Greece’s whitewashed architecture and azure waters create a magical atmosphere. Norway impresses visitors with deep fjords, tall mountains and thundering waterfalls.
Iceland earns its nickname “The Land of Fire and Ice” with a rugged volcanic landscape and the largest glacier in Europe. Slovenia enchants with fairytale-esque lakes and Alps vistas. Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast and over 1,000 islands draw crowds for the beaches and boating.
For jaw-dropping scenery almost anywhere you look, it’s hard to top Italy, Greece, Norway, Iceland, Slovenia or Croatia as the most beautiful countries in Europe.
What are the Top 5 Most Visited Country in Europe?
According to 2021 tourism statistics, the top 5 most visited countries in Europe are:
- France – 89.4 million visitors
- Spain – 68.1 million visitors
- Italy – 58.1 million visitors
- Germany – 41 million visitors
- United Kingdom – 28 million visitors
The order shifts slightly year to year, but France, Spain and Italy consistently hold the top 3 spots as Europe’s most visited countries. Their rich cultures, world-famous landmarks, cuisine, art and architecture make them extremely popular places to visit.
What is the Cheapest Country to Visit in Europe?
Eastern Europe offers exceptional value for budget-conscious travelers, making countries like Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria some of the cheapest to visit in Europe.
Accommodation, food, transportation and sightseeing tend to cost significantly less in Eastern European destinations compared to their Western European counterparts.
Other affordable European countries to visit include Greece, Portugal and Spain. Keep costs down by:
- Traveling outside the busy tourist season
- Using budget airlines for flights
- Staying in hostels, vacation rentals or affordable hotels
- Using public transportation and walking
- Visiting free landmarks and museums
- Eating street food and at local restaurants
Which Country in Europe is Cheapest to Fly Into?
Which European country you can fly into most affordably depends heavily on your home airport and airline options. However, Eastern Europe, Spain and Ireland typically offer relatively cheap flights from major airline hubs.
For U.S. travelers, round-trip flights from the East Coast to major airports in places like Ireland, Portugal or Spain can easily be found for under $500. The ultra low-cost carrier Norwegian Air offers affordable fares to cities across Europe from several North American airports.
Once in Europe, low-cost carriers like RyanAir, EasyJet, Vueling and WizzAir connect travelers between countries for bargain prices.
What is the Safest Country in Europe?
According to the Global Peace Index 2022, the safest countries in Europe are:
These countries score highly for domestic and international conflict, militarization, political stability, terrorism, violent demonstrations and other safety factors. However, Europe as a whole is quite safe for travelers who take basic precautions regarding pickpockets and scams in crowded tourist areas.
What is the Prettiest Place in Europe?
From fairytale-esque villages to stunning lakes, dramatic mountains and glittering seas, Europe offers endless eye candy. A few oft-cited “prettiest places” across the continent include:
- Hallstatt, Austria: This alpine village dotted with pastel-hued homes on a glittering lake looks straight off a postcard.
- Lake Bled, Slovenia: Cerulean blue waters, a tiny island, a church steeple and a medieval castle clustered around the foothills of the Julian Alps create picture-perfect scenes.
- Colmar, France: Multi-colored half timbered houses along quiet canals give Colmar in the Alsace wine region a delightful, charming ambiance.
- Cinque Terre, Italy: This string of five cliffside villages on the Italian Riviera stuns visitors with vibrantly-painted buildings nestled above turquoise Mediterranean seas.
- Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia: Crystal blue travertine lakes linked by waterfalls make Plitvice Lakes National Park a jaw-droppingly gorgeous natural site.
With so many beautiful places across Europe’s diverse landscapes, narrowing it down to just one “prettiest place” is highly subjective. But those five frequently make the short list!
What are the Best Cities to Visit in Europe?
According to popularity and critical acclaim, top European cities to visit include:
- Paris, France: Iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral, word-class museums and galleries, charming cafes, fine dining and fashion define France’s elegant capital city.
- London, England: Eclectic neighborhoods, historic sites from Buckingham Palace to Big Ben, vibrant West End theater scene, renowned museums and exciting multicultural urban energy make London a perennial favorite.
- Rome, Italy: Layers of history reveal themselves around every corner in Rome, from the ancient Colosseum to the masterpieces of the Vatican Museums to frescoed piazzas dotted with espresso bars and trattorias.
- Venice, Italy: What other city has canals instead of streets, architecture that seems to float on water and an entire island built on wood pilings? La Serenissima dazzles.
- Amsterdam, Netherlands: Biking along peaceful canals lined with gabled buildings, exploring museums bursting with Dutch Masters’ works and relaxing in cozy cafés define Amsterdam.
Best Countries to Visit in Europe for Young Adults?
Young adults tend to prioritize fun nightlife, budget-friendly destinations, meeting other travelers and exploring off-the-beaten-path local culture when visiting Europe.
Great destinations include Berlin, Barcelona, Budapest, Prague, Paris, Amsterdam and Greek islands like Santorini, Rhodes or Mykonos. These cities score highly for vibrant nightlife, hostels and activities for solo travelers, interesting neighborhoods to explore and easy public transportation.
Best Countries to Visit in Europe During Summer?
Summer months bring ideal weather for enjoying Europe’s outdoor cafes, beaches and music festivals. Top places to visit in Europe in summer include:
- Greek Islands: Santorini, Mykonos, Rhodes and Corfu overflow with travelers soaking up the sunny Mediterranean climate and turquoise waters from June to August.
- Spain’s Balearic Islands: Party central hot spots Ibiza and Mallorca are in peak form during the summer, while quieter Menorca and Formentera draw those looking to dodge crowds.
- Prague, Czechia: Prague’s pleasant weather and lively outdoor garden restaurants along the Vltava River shine in summer.
- The French Riviera: Glamorous beach resort towns like Nice, Cannes, Saint Tropez and glitzy Monaco sizzle in the summer months.
- Scandinavian Capitals: Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen enjoy surprisingly mild, sunny weather and long summer days perfect for outdoor festivals, sightseeing and al fresco harborfront dining.
Best Countries to Visit in Europe During Christmas?
European cities excel at charming Christmas markets, festive light displays and holiday traditions. Best places to visit include:
- Germany: Berlin, Munich, Nuremberg, Cologne and Frankfurt have world-famous Christmas markets plus seasonal events like the Christkindlesmarkt in Nuremberg.
- Austria: Glittering holiday markets take over Vienna, Innsbruck and Salzburg, complemented by alpine villages and the Austrian Alps dressed in snow.
- France: The Christmas market on the Champs Elysées lights up Paris, Strasbourg has one of Europe’s oldest markets, and
When is the Best Time to Visit Europe?
Deciding when is the best time to visit Europe depends greatly on your interests, budget, and tolerance for crowds. Europe offers compelling reasons to travel in every season.
Spring and fall offer moderate weather ideal for city sightseeing, countryside rambling, and cultural events without summer’s crowds. March, April, May, September, and October host pleasant weather across most of Europe. Central and Eastern Europe see warm days and cool nights, while Southern Europe stays consistently mild. Prices remain lower than summertime. Spring showers bring blooms like tulips in the Netherlands and bluebells in England. Fall foliage creates spectacular scenery. Both seasons provide cultural festivals, fewer tourists, and budget-friendly travel.
For beach vacations, summer reigns supreme. July and August are classic months to hit European coastlines and islands from Spain to Greece for sunshine, swimming, and revelry. Prepare for packed shorelines, higher prices, and scarce accommodations if not booked far in advance. Northern Europe also draws travelers in summer with long days ideal for city visits and natural scenery under the midnight sun.
To see the Northern Lights, head north in winter. Iceland, Scandinavia, and the Arctic Circle offer front-row views of the aurora borealis on clear, dark nights usually between September and March. Combine the dazzling sight with winter sports, Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, or reindeer encounters. Other winter highlights include Christmas markets, ski resorts in the Alps, and lower costs and smaller crowds. Just bundle up for the cold!
20 Best Places to Visit in Europe in 2024
With so many incredible destinations, narrowing Europe’s best places proves difficult. But a few spots stand out for their stunning landmarks, vibrant culture, delicious cuisine, thrilling adventures, and overall memorable experiences waiting in 2023.
- Santorini, Greece: Whitewashed villages cling to cliffs over sparkling Aegean seas in this Greek Island gem.
- High Tatras, Slovakia: Experience breathtaking Alpine vistas and excellent skiing in Central Europe’s tallest mountains.
- Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia: Marvel at turquoise lakes and thundering waterfalls along forested walking trails.
- Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland: See unique hexagonal columns formed by ancient volcanic activity on the coast.
- Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany: Tour “the castle of fairy tales” which inspired the Disney Sleeping Beauty castle.
- Blue Lagoon, Iceland: Soak in the steaming, surreal blue geothermal waters against a lava field backdrop.
- Fjordlands, Norway: Cruise beneath steep cliffs and cascading waterfalls along Norway’s longest fjords.
- Prague, Czechia: Wander medieval lanes and bridges in the Golden City with fairytale architecture.
- Matterhorn, Switzerland: Be awed by views of this iconic pyramidal peak, one of Europe’s highest summits.
- Lavender Fields, Provence: Walk amongst purple hills of fragrant lavender blooms in Southern France.
- White Cliffs of Dover, England: Marvel at bright white cliffs plunging to the sea at England’s gateway.
- Lake Bled, Slovenia: Photograph a church-topped island in crystalline blue waters edged by peaks.
- Meteora, Greece: Tour cliffside Greek Orthodox monasteries perched atop immense rock pillars.
- Reykjavik, Iceland: Enjoy Iceland’s colorful capital city and jumping off spot for nature adventures.
- Moscow’s Red Square, Russia: Discover Moscow’s iconic city center surrounded by the Kremlin and St. Basil’s Cathedral.
- Cliffs of Moher, Ireland: Be awed by 700-foot sea cliffs with views over the wild Atlantic coast.
- Bernina Express, Switzerland & Italy: Ride one of Europe’s most scenic train journeys across lofty Alpine scenery.
- Berlin Wall, Germany: Reflect at remnants of the barrier divided Cold War Berlin for decades.
- Alhambra, Granada, Spain: Marvel at intricate Islamic architecture in this palace fortress with serene gardens.
- Amalfi Coast, Italy: Soak up jaw-dropping views of villages nestled in steep cliffs over azure seas.
More of Europe’s Best Hidden Gems and Natural Wonders
Beyond its iconic capitals and famous landmarks, Europe overflows with hidden gem destinations waiting to be uncovered. For travelers seeking unique natural wonders, beautiful scenery, and roads less traveled, add these lesser-known spots to your 2024 European itinerary.
Tucked into the peaks of Slovenia, Lake Bohinj rivals neighboring Lake Bled in beauty without the crowds. Its crystal clear blue waters mirror the Julian Alps. Hike, kayak, or cycle this unspoiled haven. Nearby lies Slovenia’s epic 24-mile Underground Labrinth of Postojna Caves, dazzling with stalactites and stalagmites.
The remote Lofoten Islands in northern Norway capture nature’s magnificence with craggy peaks meeting azure waters dotted with rustic fishing villages. Join boat tours to admire sea eagles or orcas and journey by Hurtigruten ships between fjords for enchanting views.
In southern Poland, venture deep underground to the Wieliczka Salt Mine’s vast subterranean world of tunnels, lakes, and chapels hand-carved from salt by miners over seven centuries. Its eerie beauty and rich history earned UNESCO World Heritage status.
The remote Faroe Islands north of Scotland reveal grassy-roofed homes, vibrant fishing harbors, and dramatic seascapes perfect for hiking, birding, sailing, or simply relaxing in a geothermal pool. This North Atlantic haven promises sublime serenity.
Best European Countries for Outdoor Adventures
Crisscrossed by ancient pilgrim paths like the Camino de Santiago and dotted with national parks brimming with diverse ecosystems, Europe offers endless outdoor adventure. Top destinations to unleash your inner explorer include:
Iceland: Trek across volcanic terrain to thundering waterfalls like Godafoss and Dettifoss. Spot geysers, lava fields, black sand beaches, puffins, whales, and maybe the Northern Lights.
Switzerland: The birthplace of mountaineering, Switzerland boasts the Alps’ highest peaks. Test your climbing skills on the famed Matterhorn and Eiger, hike through wildflower-strewn valleys, or mountain bike down breathtaking passes.
Scotland: Ramble across the remote Isle of Skye, cast for salmon in the River Spey, sail to the UK’s northernmost point at Dunnet Head, and play a round on the legendary St Andrews’ golf courses.
Norway: Paddle under the midnight sun along the deep Sognefjord and Geirangerfjord. Backpack through Jotunheimen National Park’s glaciers and mountains. Chase Northern Lights across the Arctic Circle’s Tromsø region night skies.
Greece: Escape the tourist throngs exploring off-the-beaten-path trails on quiet Crete, the Peloponnese, and northern mainland. Watch for sea turtles swimming in azure waters as you sea kayak, sail, or snorkel hidden coves and volcano islets.
With adventures from hiking and biking to climbing, rafting, and cross-country skiing across stunning scenery, Europe’s great outdoors promise exhilarating escapes.
Best European Cities for Foodies
From fresh seafood along the Mediterranean to hearty Austrian dumplings to English high teas, Europe tantalizes travelers with diverse culinary traditions. Every destination offers tempting tastes, but a few cities cater especially to food lovers.
Italian seaside gem San Sebastiano wows palates with Liguria’s freshest seafood highlighted at the town’s Michelin-starred restaurants. Nearby coastal Cinque Terre serves regional specialties like anchovies, olive oil, and pesto beside pastel fishing villages.
Spain’s San Sebastián in the Basque Country thrills with pintxos bars offering small plates and sensational wines. The city’s exceptional ingredients and talented chefs have earned more Michelin stars per capita here than anywhere else globally.
Lyon, France is a paradise for foodies seeking world-class restaurants and bustling markets. Known as the gastronomic capital of France, Lyon specializes in meaty dishes, cheeseboards, local wines, and pastries. Don’t miss the Paul Bocuse covered market.
In Italy, Bologna dishes up pasta, prosciutto, parmesan, pizza, and other icons of Italian cuisine. As the capital of Emilia-Romagna, the country’s culinary heartland, Bologna’s dishes represent authentic regional flavors.
Immerse in Vienna’s regal café culture once frequented by luminaries like Sigmund Freud and Gustav Klimt. Sip coffee in ornate historic spaces while enjoying strudels, sachertortes, and other classic Austrian sweets.
For Dublin’s freshest seafood, oysters, Irish cheeses, meats, and produce, foodies should hit up the city’s lively Temple Bar district. Then refuel over Irish whiskey, stouts, and traditional music in cozy pubs.
Europe’s capitals showcase an embarrassment of epicurean riches. But for food-focused travelers, cities renowned for exceptional local specialties and dining scenes deliver the most satisfying and memorable culinary adventures.
Europe offers boundless beauty across its diverse regions. These destinations deliver stunning icons, cultural treasures, adventures, and surprises guaranteed to inspire wanderlust for the year ahead!