41 Best Places to Visit in Europe. Bucket List Destinations (with photos)
You could easily write a European bucket list by simply adding every capital city and working your way through them. However, we want to change it up a little by including some cities but also some islands, beaches, parks and other unique experiences to our “Best Places to Visit in Europe” list, that will have you longing to return to Europe again and again. While Paris, Barcelona, London and Rome are obviously must-sees, there are plenty of lesser-known gems that are just begging to be explored!
Check out our Top 50 Travel Bucket List Experiences (coming soon) to read more about some of our favourite cities in the world and read on to discover some other much-loved European destinations.
The Eiffel Tower
Paris’ iconic tower is a must for anyone visiting Europe for the first time. The structure, built between 1887–1889 by Gustave Eiffel, has become world-famous and is thought to claim the title of ‘the most-visited paid monument in the world.’ This lattice tower is photogenic from every angle and snapping a selfie with the Eiffel Tower in the background is a must (although it’s a challenge to get it all in!). Visitors can choose to take the lift up the three floors of the tower or brave the 300 stairs to the first floor alone.
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Home to the Queen of England, Buckingham Palace is a stunning building in the heart of London. The front of the palace is bustling year-round with tourists longing to get a glimpse of the Royal Family. The ‘Changing of the Guards’ ceremony occurs daily at 11am (10am on Sundays) and is a great time for visitors to witness an elaborate procession of Beefeaters march down the Mall to the palace.
This huge amphitheatre in the centre of Rome is one of the top attractions in Europe. The largest amphitheatre ever built, the Colosseum is thought to have seated between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators. Make sure you visit both day and night to witness this impressive structure in different lights (it is particularly beautiful at dusk!). A visit to the Colosseum can also be combined with a trip to the Roman Forum next door to discover more ancient ruins.
La Sagrada Familia is a stunning basilica in Barcelona designed by world-famous architect Antoni Gaudi. It has amazingly received UNESCO World Heritage Site status despite not being finished, having been worked on pretty much continually since 1882. The structure comprises of intricate Gothic design, seven apsidal chapels, double aisles, a multitude of towers, 18 spires and a crypt containing the body of Gaudi. It is estimated that La Sagrada Familia will be finished by 2026 (the centenary of Gaudi’s death), but it’s still well worth a visit before then!
Standing proudly on the top of Acropolis Hill lies the ancient citadel of Greece constructed during the reign of Pericles (when the Athenian Empire was at the height of its power). The buildings atop Acropolis Hill were built between 450-422 BC with the most famous being the Parthenon, a mammoth temple dedicated to the goddess Athena. Although much of the site was destroyed during a siege in 1687, the main structures remain in various forms of disrepair, but you can still imagine the grandeur of the citadel as it would have once been.
Despite being small, the Sistine Chapel holds great significance is one of the many must-sees in Europe. Lying in the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel is famed for the colourful frescos by Michelangelo which depict The Last Judgment from the book of Revelation. The chapel also plays an important role in the Catholic Church as it is where each new Pope is chosen. The Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel, in particular, have thousands of visitors every day.
Taking a gondola ride on the canals of Venice is one of the most romantic experiences you can have in Europe. The canals wind between the city’s pristine buildings that look like they magically rise out of the water and the striped tops and straw hats of the gondoliers only add to the experience! If you happen to be in Venice on the first Sunday of September, head to the banks of the Grand Canal to watch the Regata Storica, a boating competition in which thousands of spectators watch boats race down the canal.
The Chateau de Versailles lies around 20km outside of the city of Paris and was the primary residence of Louis XIV from 1682. This spectacular building is a work of art and includes notable features such as the stunning Hall of Mirrors, a 70m long room with large windows on one side, wide mirrors on the other and an array of gold statues and chandeliers throughout! Spend your day admiring the art within the house before stepping out to enjoy the pristine gardens and fountains outside.
This selection of villages along the Italian Riviera draws visitors year after year to witness the beauty of these colourful houses perched perfectly on the cliff edge next to the sea. The polychromatic buildings seemingly tumble down the terraces until they reach the azure bays filled with small fishing boats. Most of the villages are also backed by sweeping vineyards making it even more picturesque! After enjoying the food, wine, views, and culture of these five quaint villages, you’ll probably never want to leave!
While Turkey is officially in ‘Eurasia,’ a meeting point of continents, we couldn’t resist adding the Grand Bazaar to this must-see list. This vast marketplace is one of the largest and oldest in the world and features over 4000 shops and stalls selling everything from food and spices to jewels, textiles, and local handicrafts. With hundreds of thousands of visitors daily you should expect it to be busy, but you can take your time and easily while away hours getting lost among the winding rows of shops! Click edit button to change this text.
Other Awesome Cities
While Budapest is well known by Europeans as an excellent city break destination, it is still relatively unknown by those coming from further afield. But here’s why it should be added to your Euro bucket list: awesome architecture, cheap cuisine, friendly locals and thermal baths – to name but a few! Budapest is a great destination come snow or shine with a selection of gorgeous outside spaces, epic castles to explore and long sweeping boulevards to wander along before stopping off to grab a coffee and a cake.
Prague is yet another European city with spectacular architecture. From Charles Bridge and the St. Vitus Cathedral to the Prague Castle and the whole of the main square, you’ll never get bored of exploring the stunning city streets. Make sure you stop by the astronomical clock to take in the intricate hands, dial and figures that make up this piece of art. Wine is almost cheaper than water here, so it’s worth spending an afternoon/evening in a café with a carafe as you watch the world go by.
Dubrovnik’s popularity has soared over the past few years thanks to its connection to the successful series Game Of Thrones. However, this postcard-perfect city is still worth a visit despite the rising numbers of tourists. Take a walk around the ancient walls of the city to witness the sea of terracotta roofs before wandering in and out of the meandering cobbled streets of the city. Not only does this peninsula city offer a stunning Old Town, but it provides travellers with pristine beaches on which to cool off too!
While many of the top sites to ‘see’ in Berlin are actually spots that no longer exist, enjoying a walking tour of the city is a must. Berlin has a wealth of interesting history, with old and new standing side by side throughout the city to recount the tales of days gone by. By day, explore the Berliner Dom, Holocaust Memorial, Berlin Wall, and Brandenburg Gate, by night check out the city’s world-class nightlife, with fine-dining restaurants, quirky bars, and epic clubs staying open until the early hours.
Florence isn’t always the first city on people’s list when they think of Italy, but it’s often people’s favourite once they’ve visited. The capital of Tuscany certainly lives up to its gastronomic expectations, with some of the best wine and cuisine in the world. Not only this, but the Renaissance architecture makes the whole city look like a work of art. Check out the stalls along the Ponte Vecchio, the beautiful cathedral in the heart of the city and the Uffizi Museum for your culture fix. Head up to the Piazzale Michaelangelo at sunset to witness the famous ‘David’ statue that stands proudly above the city.
The city of Porto is one of many amazing places to visit in Portugal, with famous food, wine (well, port actually), art and culture to keep you entertained for days on end. Take in the colourful vista of the city from the Dom Luis I Bridge then make your way inside the winding streets to discover the unique hotels, museums, restaurants, and stores that this city has to offer. Visiting the Livraria Lello bookstore is an absolute must for Harry Potter lovers as within this beautiful building lies J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for the Great Staircase at Hogwarts!
Edinburgh is a city of many majestic buildings. From the gorgeous Edinburgh Castle, a fortress that lies on a hill above the city, to the medieval buildings of Old Town and the Georgian architecture of New Town, the Scottish capital unfolds as a photographic backdrop at every turn. Take a walk up Calton Hill or Arthur’s Seat to gain a panorama of the city, or simply spend your days meandering through the winding historic streets. For festivities of fun, book tickets and accommodation for the Edinburgh Fringe (well in advance), an arts and comedy festival that is renowned the world over!
So much more than the English word ’nice,’ the southern city of Nice is an absolute gem on the French Riviera. With the pristine Promenade des Anglais all the way along the front, Nice makes it easy to soak up wine, culture, and sunshine all at the same time! The burnt orange and ochre buildings peppering the landscape are a feast for the eyes, and every restaurant and café serves up its own sumptuous French fare to get your mouth watering. Life is laid-back here, so don’t make plans, rather take your time to wander the cobbled streets, visit much-loved museums and explore local markets and cafes. Plus, the butterfly-clad Mardi Gras fiesta here is a stunning celebration of spring that is well worth a visit!
A city of islands, herring, and start-ups, Sweden’s capital has a modern vibe despite the old architecture of Gamla Stan and the city’s interesting history. Walking is the best way to discover the city and is a past-time enjoyed by all Swedes – feel like a local as you wander between the islands, stopping off to explore flea markets, food stalls and vintage shops en route or to feast on a picnic in the park. Alternatively, get out on the water to kayak around the archipelago, gaining a different perspective of the city. With quirky museums, world-renowned festivals, cool cafes and a bunch of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Stockholm is definitely one to add to your European Bucket List.
While Amsterdam is known for its famous red-light district and cannabis legality (and is ideal if you want to enjoy those things), it is often overlooked on European bucket lists in favour of bigger cities with more prominent landmarks. However, Amsterdam certainly offers plenty to keep visitors engaged. The city of bikes is fun to explore on two feet or two wheels, with paths snaking their way along the canal past a mismatch of narrow townhouses standing proudly at the water’s edge. Visits to the Anne Frank House, Van Gogh Museum and Dam Square are all musts, as is stuffing your face with cheese, croquettes and, of course, stroopwafels!
Beaches, Lakes, and Islands
Also known as Shipwreck Beach, Navagio Beach in Zakynthos, Greece is a famous cove like no other. This picturesque bay features turquoise waters, towering cliffs and perfect pebbles (sounds pretty standard, right?) but also includes a huge shipwreck of the MV Panagiotis which ran aground here in 1980. While enjoying the beach itself is popular – with boat trips coming here every day during summer – the best view is actually from above. Rent a car to get to the viewing platform to take a shot of the dramatic landscape, before following little cliff path (something that tours don’t do) where you can witness an even better view of Navagio and other little bays along the way!
Albandeira Beach looks like it has popped out of a postcard, with a golden sandy bay surrounded by yellow limestone cliffs. What makes this beach special though are the rock formations, one of which forms a window to the sea (like the former Azure Window in Gozo). The other thing that sets it apart is the fact that it is fairly off the tourist trail and doesn’t feature sunbeds, umbrellas or water sports, allowing you to enjoy nature at its best.
Despite being an island, beaches are not the first thing that spring to mind when you think of the UK, and with the fairly dismal weather, it’s not really surprising. However, visiting St Ives in the summer will make you think you’ve left the UK and have ventured to some far-flung holiday destination. The bay features aquamarine waters and soft sands, and with world-renowned surfing and a fantastic art scene, there is plenty to keep you busy during those long summer holidays.
Zlatni Rat aka the Golden Horn is a stunning stretch of beach close to the town of Bol on the island of Brač in Croatia. The beach spans both sides of a long spit of land that juts out from a pine forest on the edge of the island. The beach features small white pebbles, and crystal-clear water so is the perfect place to kick back and relax after exploring the cities of Dubrovnik or Split. Don’t forget to take your drone so you can capture footage of this beach which arguably looks even better from above!
Absolutely stunning in both summer and winter, Lake Bled is a magical destination that is a must for any European Bucket List. Lake Bled is picture-perfect and features a small island in the middle with the Assumption of Mary church perched on top, surrounded by still, blue waters. You can hire a small rowing boat to access the island or brave the long swim across in summer! A walk around the lake is a peaceful way to spend an afternoon or why not zip-line across for an even more epic view!
The nearby Vintgar Gorge is also well worth a visit!
Lake Como in Northern Italy is one of the most picturesque lakes in the world. With pastel houses and grand villas scattered around the edge and the towering Rhaetian Alps looming in the distance, Lake Como’s landscape is truly dramatic. Como is one of the deepest lakes in Europe, with the 200m depth creating an intense indigo hue which only adds to the beauty. Treat yourself to a stay at one of the luxury hotels around the lake where you can enjoy breakfast on the balcony before an afternoon in a spa with a view!
The Plitviče Lakes National Park in Croatia comprises of a chain of stunning lakes and waterfalls that are just begging to be explored. While these lakes get super busy in peak season, getting there early to explore is still well worth it. The park itself extends over 70,000 acres, so if you know where to go, you can still find spots for yourself. Of course, head to the main tourist spots (Veliki Slap Waterfall, the Barac Caves and Lake Kozjak) but also try to get off the beaten path by following routes without signs or going out on your own. The colour of the waters here is simply spectacular with the turquoise being both deep and clear at the same time!
Santorini is one of the most popular and expensive of all the Greek islands, and it’s not hard to see why. This volcanic island in the Cyclades was shaped due to a huge eruption in the 16th century BC which left the island with towering cliffs and a deep caldera – the very landscape that makes it so popular today. With pristine white and blue buildings, stylish bars and boutiques and lava rock beaches, Santorini is unlike other Greek islands and is well worth saving up for a visit.
The Isle of Skye brings something completely different to the table, with rugged highland landscapes, cute villages, medieval castles, and friendly locals. Often voted as one of the best places to live in the UK, the Isle of Skye has a laid-back way of life that welcomes visitors and new residents alike. Skye is also a must for wildlife lovers, with White Tailed Sea Eagles, otters, seals, whales and dolphins residing here throughout the year!
The island of Capri off the Sorrentine Peninsula in Italy is one of the most beautiful islands in Europe, with the quaint Marina Piccola (little harbour) and Marina Grande (main port) being stunning focal points of the island. The sea stacks (limestone crags) out in the ocean are interesting and unique making for ideal landscape photography. Make sure you visit the Punta Carena lighthouse, Mount Solaro and, of course, the spectacular Blue Grotto.
Skiing in the Alps is one of the best activities in Europe with hundreds of runs longing to be discovered. Whether your visit Tignes, Chamonix, Val d’Isere or Zermatt, you’re sure to have an amazing time enjoying the winter wonderland of the Alps. With fine-dining restaurants, chic spa hotels and a range of on and off-piste routes, it’s no wonder this is one of the greatest ski resorts in the world. If you love the slopes for the après-ski parties, you won’t be disappointed here either with some epic festivals and seasonal shenanigans to keep you entertained.
Neuschwanstein Castle looks like it has jumped straight out of a storybook with stunning spires and hundreds of windows giving you a glimpse of the mysterious world inside. The picturesque 19th-century castle towers above the landscape in southwest Bavaria and was originally built as a way for King Ludwig II to withdraw from public life. Today it is open to the public with visitors coming to see the ‘castle of the fairy-tale king.’
Visiting the opera in Vienna is a must even if you’re not much of an opera fan. Not only are the interiors majestic, but the performances are both memorable and moving. The opera is a grand event, and it’s a great chance to dress up to the nines during your Euro trip. Don’t worry if you can’t afford €200 tickets to the opera, as you can sometimes get same-day standing tickets at the world-famous Wiener Staatsoper from just three euros!
Stonehenge is one of England’s most famous sites and holds great significance thanks to the solar alignments that it forms. This mammoth stone circle is thought to have been constructed in the late Neolithic period (about 2500 BC), and when you stand there witnessing the giant monument you’ll wonder how on earth it was created! Visit during winter and summer solstice for special pagan events.
The Palace and Fortress of Alhambra was built between the 13th and 14th Century for the Emirate of Granada. This incredible building is perched atop a hill overlooking Granada and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is a must-see. With a mix of Spanish and Arabic influences, Alhambra features Moorish and Christian architecture. Not only are the hike up to the fortress and the grounds themselves impressive, but the courtyards, fountains, and palaces that lie within are even more spectacular!
Prima ballerinas to Russia are what Hollywood actors are to the US – absolute superstars! It’s, therefore, no wonder than visiting the ballet in St Petersburg is an essential part of this European Bucket List. With Tchaikovsky classics Swan Lake and The Nutcracker being ballet staples as well as a great range of modern interpretations, there is always something going on at the Russian ballet. The Mariinsky Theatre is the mainstay option for the ballet but both St Petersburg and Moscow have other reputable theatres open year-round, so you can always catch a show.
Yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site to grace the list is Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. This unique rock formation tumbles down into the ocean and is a wonderful place to take some landscape photographs. Each of the rocks are completely different so you could spend hours exploring the area. Local folklore states that the site is part of a bridge that was formed by giant Finn MacCool hoping to reach other giants to battle in Scotland!
If you love to party there’s no better place to dance the night away than Ibiza. This coastal town is now home to epic super clubs that host world-class DJs throughout the summer. Spend your days relaxing on the beach, going on a booze cruise, checking out some beach bars or soaking up the atmosphere before partying all night at Pacha, Amnesia and The Zoo Project. The opening and closing parties are probably some of the biggest events of the year so try to check out the dates before you travel.
Although Disney originated in the US, visiting Disneyland Paris is great for those who can’t afford a trip to the States or who simply love Disney and want to visit them all! The whole resort now comprises of two Disney Parks, seven Disney Hotels, a golf course, and Disney Village so you could stay for days on end exploring the magic of Disneyland. Easily accessible by train from Paris, you can tick off loads of your European Bucket List in one go with a visit to the French capital!
While we’ve added a couple of Greek spots to this list already, we couldn’t resist adding ‘sail around the Greek islands’ in general to the must-dos. With over 6000 islands in total (200+ inhabited) you could endlessly explore these picturesque islands until you find your favourite. Each island has its own unique charm, with quaint harbours, dramatic landscapes and local delicacies for you to try.
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