Best European Cities to Visit

Edited by Kathy McGraw, Alma, Maria Quinney


Everyone should travel to Europe at least once. The continent is a treasure trove of history, especially of the Western world, documenting its rise with the ancient Greeks and Romans, as well as its fall during the Dark Ages, and its rebirth in the Renaissance. Its cities tell the tale, with their crumbling stone walls, ornate cathedrals, and cobblestoned streets. But time is limited, and so are dollars, so we've put together this guide to help you choose which European cities to visit in your European travels.

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Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Founded in the late 12th century following a series of floods, Amsterdam owes its name to the river upon which is began as a bridge and dam, the river Amstel. It is the capital city of the Netherlands and is known for its canal system, narrow buildings, gabled architecture, and for its famous historical denizens, Anne Frank and Vincent Van Gogh. With its numerous bicycle paths and romantic canal system, Amsterdam is charming and romantic. Don't miss the Van Gogh Museum at the Museumplein or the Anne Frank House, a carefully preserved historical exhibit of her life under Nazi rule.

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Athens, Greece

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The bustling city of Athens, the capital of Greece, is a mixture of the ancient past and the current day. One of the world's oldest cities, it dates back some 3,400 years of recorded history. Spend the day hiking around the Acropolis with its stunning views of the city and the majestic Parthenon and head to the Plaka and Gazi neighborhoods at night for lively music, al-fresco dining, and shots of ouzo.

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Barcelona, Spain

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Dating back to ancient Roman times, the city of Barcelona is rich in cultural and historical heritage. It is the capital of the autonomous Catalonia region within the Kingdom of Spain and is one of the largest cities on the Mediterranean Sea. Barcelona was the site of the 1992 Summer Olympics. Displaying the architectural genius of Antoni Gaudi, an Art Noveau master, are the La Sagrada Familia (Church of the Sacred Family) and the Casa Batllo. For unsurpassed views of the Mediterranean Sea as well as beautiful gardens, visit Montjuic Castle, and if you want to take in a day of shopping followed by a night club-hopping, head to the Las Ramblas neighborhood in central Barcelona.

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Bath, United Kingdom

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A town in the lovely southwest of England, Bath is the home of natural hot springs which the Romans converted into baths in 60 CE. Nobles flocked to the small town starting in the 17th century when claims were made of the water's "restorative" powers. Avail yourself of the free audio-guided walking tours of the city, downloadable to your mobile phone, bathe in the hot waters of the rooftop Thermae Bath Spa, and visit the Roman Baths during the night for a torchlit scene out of ancient times. Also, don't miss dining on the original Sally Lunn Bun, a local delicacy at Sally Lunn's History Eating House and Museum.

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Berlin, Germany

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The capital city of Germany, Berlin originated in the 13th century and was the site of the Berlin Wall, which divided East and West Berlin as part of the divided Germany that followed World War II. Today, the city is a cosmopolitan mecca for the arts, science, technology. If you're there in late May or early June, take part in Berlin's Ultimate Street Party, a massive celebration of culture in the city center.

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Biarritz, France

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Founded in the middle 12th century, Biarritz is a beautiful city that lies along the coast of the southwest region of France. Its long sandy beaches world renowned for amazing surfing conditions which make it a popular surfing destination. Visit Grande Plage and rent a 1920's style beach tent for the day for a relaxing time along the beautiful French shore, or head to the Cite de l'Ocean, part museum, a part theme park dedicated to the wonders of the ocean.

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Bruges, Belgium

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Bruges is the capital of West Flanders, a province in Belgium. It is a beautiful city with cobblestone streets and medieval architecture. With its romantic canals and towers embellished with gothic flavor, it holds a medieval charm that's hard to deny. Not to be missed is the Stadhuis, constructed in 1420 with its vaulted ceilings and statuesque gothic details or the Groeningmuseum with its collection of Flemish paintings from the Renaissance and earlier. Also, don't miss out on the beer.

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Bucharest, Romania

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Bucharest is the capital of Romania, where the progenitor of the Dracula myth, Vlad the Impaler, once ruled during the 15th century. The Curtea Veche Palace, where Vlad lived is there, as well as the home of that other authoritarian leader, Nicolae Ceausescu. When you've finished gorging on gothic sites, you'll find a thriving nightlife scene in Bucharest's Lipscani District where you can sample Romanian fare and drink while listening to live music.

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Budapest, Hungary

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The capital of Hungary, Budapest is the most populated city in Hungary. The River Danube bisects the city. So bridges, such as the Chain Bridge that goes back to the 19th century connect the two halves together. Sites to see include the Royal Palace, Parliament, and the Basilica of St. Stephen. Don't miss the thermal baths and be sure to try the palinka, a fruit brandy.

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Copenhagen, Denmark

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Copenhagen is the capital of Denmark. It was founded in 1167 as a Viking fishing village, the city is located on the east side of the island of Zealand. This beautiful city contains the rococo-style Frederiksstaden, where the Amalienborg Palace is located as well as the Rosenborg Castle with its surrounding gardens and where the crown jewels of the royal family are kept. Ride the restored roller coaster built in 1914 at Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park that opened in 1843, and have a snack at one of the many cafes along one of the longest streets in Europe, Stroget.

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Edinburgh, Scotland

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The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh is an old medieval city overlaid with a Georgian flavor in the city's New Town district, which has been named a UNESCO world heritage site. Located adjacent to the Firth of Forth which borders the North Sea, it's a city of vine-covered stone buildings resting on rocky hills beside the sea. If you're there in August, don't miss the Edinburgh Festival, a celebration of culture featuring music, opera and much more.

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Florence, Italy

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Located in the Tuscany region of Italy, Florence is a classic city of the Renaissance. See the Michelangelo's David at the Galleria Dell'Accademia and Botticelli's masterpiece "The Birth of Venus" at the Uffizi Gallery along with Leonardo da Vinci's "Annunciation." Take a walk across the medieval stone bridge at Pointe Vecchio and shop for jewelry at the jewelry shops within, and take in the magnificent terracotta tiles of the Duomo Cathedral.

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Galway, Ireland

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Galway is a port city on Ireland's west coast with a lively bohemian flavor. History lives in the Latin Quarter where the city's medieval walls still stand. St. Nicolas's Collegiate Church, which was built in 1320 features a rector who performs on his flute every night during the summer. Be sure to hit Eyre Square, which is of 18th-century vintage, to find shops and pubs featuring authentic Irish folk music.

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Kotor, Montenegro

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A charming old-world town, Kotor lies on the coast of Montenegro. It has a strong maritime background, owing to its location on the Adriatic coast. Sites to see include the Maritime Museum where you can see model ships, paintings, and furniture from Kotor's past, The Cathedral of Saint Tryphon, a Romanesque Catholic cathedral with ornate architecture and beautiful stained glass windows, and Pima Palace which was constructed after and earthquake struck the region in 1667.

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Porto, Portugal

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A city of bridges, Porto is located along the northeastern coast of Portugal. It is known for its port wine industry and is the second largest city in Portugal. One of the oldest European cities, it was established by the Romans. Porto has been selected as the "Best European Destination" by the Best European Destinations Agency in 2014 and 2017. Cross the Dom Luis Bridge, an ironworks masterpiece of design that predates the Eiffel Tower. Visit the Cais Da Riveria, the heritage riverfront district that dates back to medieval times, and don't miss the ornately beautiful Sao Francisco Church.

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Split, Croatia

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Split is a charming port town on the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. Along the waterfront is Riva, a palm tree lined promenade with shops and restaurants for your dining pleasure. In the center of the city sits Diocletian's Palace, built by Diocletian in the 4th century and along the coast is Bacvice, a beautiful beach. On Marjan, a woody verge, you will find quaint churches and walking paths through the woods, and back in the city, Croatian art is on display at the Gallery of Fine Arts.

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Valletta, Malta

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Valletta is the tiny capital of the tiny country of Malta which is situated in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Italy. Founded in 1550 by the Knights of St. John, an order of Catholic Knights, the city features baroque architecture, typified by St. John's Co-Cathedral where you can see the masterpiece, "The Beheading of St. John," by the famed Baroque painter, Caravaggio. Not to be missed are the Upper Barrakka Gardens and Saluting Battery, located high above the Grand Harbor. Surrounded by collonades, the gardens were built during the 16th century as a place of repose for the visiting Knights. From this high vantage point, you get the best views of Malta and as a bonus, the cannons of the Saluting Battery, fully restored are fired twice daily at noon and 4 p.m.

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Categories : Travel & Leisure

Recent edits by: Alma, Kathy McGraw

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