by: Jason Young, Anna Zielazny
Europe has a lot to offer. With 44 countries, it can be hard to visit them all. From cosmopolitan cities, through villages enchanted in time, to breathtaking natural wonders, you can find anything you have dreamt of in Europe. In this Europe travel guide, we’ll try to cover all the essential things to get your the best trip experiences.
Best Places to Visit in Europe
Here is a list of the best places to visit during your European vacation. Whether you love nature, good food, or an exquisite city life, keep reading to find your dream European destination.
The vibrant city of Porto, Portugal
Tourists from all over the world love Portugal. It has a great ocean shore, intriguing cuisine, and cities that offer stunning historical views, beautiful architecture, and great nightlife. If you have to choose just one place out of all the wonders, Porto is the best choice.
Admire the view of the Douro river and UNESCO heritage listed Ribeira from the Luís I bridge. Take a stroll through the narrow streets, eat the local speciality, francesinha, and be careful not to bump into something while admiring beautiful Portuguese tiles, azulejos.
The Picturesque Cinque Terre, Italy
Located in Liguria in Italy, Cinque Terre includes five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. All of them are part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
While in Italy, you can’t miss this area. The scenery is simply breathtaking, but it’s not all about nature. While visiting these fishing villages, you can learn a lot about local traditions and cherish Italian cuisine.
Thanks to the mild climate, you can enjoy this location all year long. Cinque Terre is a perfect place for people who love hiking as it offers many trails around and between the villages.
For more thorough tips on Italy trip, check our Italy travel guide.
The Fashion Capital: Paris, France
Paris is on the bucket list of many. Nothing surprising considering how famous this city is. Announced the city of love and the fashion capital of the world, it is a perfect place for a romantic getaway, weekend with friends, or family vacation.
The French capital also offers the best museums in the world, including the Louvre, with a giant collection of art from various periods, Musée d’Orsay with its stunning collection of impressionists, and Le Centre Pompidou with modern art.
Don’t miss the opportunity to try local cuisine, whether in the form of a French breakfast or a stunning dinner in one of many Michelin star restaurants. The food here is really a big deal, and accompanied with French wine becomes an experience that you cannot miss.
If you travel with kids or you simply love Disney, take a trip to Disneyland, where you can meet your favourite character from the movies, take a ride in a carousel, and much more.
Oh yeah! And look at Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower!
More about exploring Paris at our thoroughly made Paris travel guide.
The Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland
Imagine green grass, a roaring ocean, and an open road. Ireland is one of the most beautiful islands that Europe has to offer. The Wild Atlantic Way is a route that you can take to admire the most stunning raw wonders of nature.
It runs through the western coast of Ireland for more than 1,500 miles. You can start from the bottom, at the charming fishing town of Kinsale, or from the far north in Malin Head, where the harsh weather reflects the beauty of the local flora.
It’s a perfect choice for people who love camping, friends planning the most stunning road trip of their life, and anyone who wants to experience natural Irish beauty.
Whether you start at the South or the North, you will pass small Irish towns in counties such as Kerry, Clare, Galway, Mayo and Sligo. You can find a nice bed and breakfast and get a pint of Guinness in a smokey pub. The drive can take more time than you expect because there are many small villages and towns worth exploring.
More on the beauty of Ireland on our Ireland travel guide.
The Cosmopolitan London, United Kingdom
Cosmopolitan: that is the word that perfectly describes London. As one of the most visited cities in the world, London has a rich offer for any adventurer, art lover, architecture freak, or magic seeker.
Admire the eclectic architecture of the city, with the central point focusing on the neogothic Parliament building and famous Big Ben. Have a pint in a smokey bar on a rainy, gloomy day, or enjoy a sunny afternoon in one of the Parks or on the banks of the Thames river.
Don’t miss the museums with some of the best art collections in the world. If you are a fan of mystery, pass through Baker Street or take part in a city hunt game. And if you are one of those who are still waiting for your letter from Hogwarts, follow the steps of Harry Potter and jump onto the next train on the platform 9 3/4.
Plan a trip to London? Check our London travel guide to get yourself covered.
The Beauty of Waterfalls in Krka National Park, Croatia
Croatia attracts millions of tourists thanks to its golden beaches and great climate. Yet you shouldn’t just stop your exploring at the sea shore.
Krka National Park is one of the most impressive natural parks in the whole of Europe. The river Krka is 72,5 km long and is famous for its waterfalls. Seven waterfalls are a natural wonder that you can admire while hiking on the sidewalks prepared especially for visitors.
As the area has remained remote for many years, you can see old monasteries created by monks who were looking for secluded places to live.
The Labyrinth of Chartres, France
While Paris might have been announced the romantic centre of the world, it is so worth heading a bit outside of the French capital. Whether you are a pilgrim, Instagrammer, want to immerse in medieval beauty, or have a romantic getaway, Chartres is a perfect choice.
The town is crowned by a true gothic architecture gem. Chartres cathedral impresses with its delicate pinnacles, arches, and glass windows which create beautiful shade and light paintings on the walls. According to beliefs, Chartres cathedral has the Holy Veil, which was supposed to belong to the Virgin Mary. Chartres cathedral also has a spectacular floor with a type of “labyrinth” that people follow to get into a meditative state.
Don’t miss Maison Picassiete, a house fully covered with glass mosaic (including the furniture). To feel the medieval vibes of the city, head to the banks of the Eure River. Watermills, bridges, and wooden houses create picturesque views.
The Water Village of Giethoorn, Netherlands
Imagine a picturesque village that for ages hasn’t seen a car, and where you travel by foot, bicycle or by boat. Now, forget about all the crowds of Venice. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?
This little paradise exists in the Netherlands. With its canal systems and cute farmhouses with windows filled with pot plants, Giethoorn looks like a place from a fairy tale.
Here you won’t find a typical street, because canals play the role of them. You can pass the river using wooden bridges or just float in your boat admiring the peaceful sounds of nature.
The village has three museums. In the “Het Olde Maat Uus” Museum, you can spend quality time learning about the life of farmers. Another museum offers a collection of gemstones. The Histomobil museum sounds like a joke, as you can admire various types of cars and motorcycles there. Well, it seems like the museum is the only place for them.
The Eternal City: Rome, Italy
Rome is the heart of Italy and European culture. In this Eternal City, visitors can admire some of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. The Colosseum, old ruins that bring to mind the old splendour of the city, modern districts, and vibrant art scene make this city one of the best places to visit in Europe.
While in Rome, you cannot miss visiting the Vatican. While it’s a different country, the Vatican is nestled in the middle of the Eternal City and is a place to which Catholics pilgrimage from all over the world. With the famous Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, it is also a perfect place for art lovers.
Get lost in charming streets, have a gelato with coffee in a charming piazza, and immerse yourself into centuries of art and history. Whether you decide to discover Rome in the morning or at night, you will get a chance to see many street artists and musicians that elevate the whole Roman experience.
More about exploring Rome at our Rome travel guide.
The Musical Capital: Vienna, Austria
If you are a music or dance lover, Vienna should be on your bucket list. Everywhere in the city, you can notice how important Johann Strauss, composer of the Blue Danube Waltz, was for the Austrian capital. Visit Stadtpark to take a selfie with his statue, and head to the House of Music to learn more about the Viennese waltz. The Vienna Philharmonic is a great place to visit, not only because of the spectacular repertoire but also because of the impressive architecture.
Vienna has spectacular architecture, including art nouveau buildings and Schönbrunn Palace in which the Archduchess Maria Theresa and Empress Elisabeth spent their summer holidays. The latter might be known by you under the name Sisi. You can learn more about her history in the Sisi Museum in the Imperial Palace.
Vienna is also a great spot for design lovers. Young artists and designers can present their works at art fairs or in pop-up stores. To coronate your trip to the European capital of music, hop into the Giant Ferris Wheel and take a look at this vibrant city from above.
Two Sides of Budapest, Hungary
While many European capitals have a stunning setting, there is nothing like Budapest. The Hungarian capital is nested on two sides of the river Danube: Buda and Pest.
The former is filled with historical heritage and stunning architecture, including thermal baths from the Ottoman era, and the royal palace, and is considered the calmer part of the capital. Pest, on the other hand, offers architectural splendour of Art Nouveau buildings, emblematic neogothic Parliament building and renovated Palace District and Jewish Quarter. This part of the city is filled with cultural events, street art, and interesting artistic venues.
Budapest is an ideal place for people who enjoy various festivals and theatre events. Once you get tired of the city life, you can stroll through Margaret Island, Budapest’s city park, where you can unwind in the green scenery or while taking a bath in one of the thermal baths and spas.
While in Budapest, don’t forget to taste original cuisine and try local wines, which are becoming more and more popular on the wine market.
More about traveling and enjoying Budapest to the fullest at our Budapest travel guide.
Mykonos – Greece’s Cosmpolitan Paradise
Greece is a fundament of European culture. Nowadays, many places in this country are some of the best European destinations not only because of the rich culture and history but also because of the natural beauty.
Mykonos is one of the European paradise islands, with picturesque architecture and turquoise water. Cycladic architecture in which blue and white colours create the town’s unique landscape can impress anyone. Cobbled streets filled with flowers in pots add to the charm of this place.
While it seems that time has slowed down here, Mykonos is a cosmopolitan centre of Greece. Here you can sip your drink in fancy bars, shop in various fashion stores, and taste fresh seafood in one of many restaurants.
If you want more than just chilling out, you can visit the Archaeological and Folklore Museum or Panayia Tourliani monastery and immerse in local culture.
The Historical Barcelona, Spain
This truly vibrant city will satisfy all travelers. From beautiful squares and breathtaking architecture to great nightlife and nice city beaches, Barcelona has it all.
What makes Barcelona unique when compared to all the other Spanish cities is the architectural marks of the artist Antoni Gaudí. While one of the most famous buildings designed by him is yet unfinished (the Sagrada Família cathedral), other architectural marvels are scattered all around Barcelona.
Get lost in Park Güell, admire the wavy facades of art nouveau buildings, and experience world-class art in one of many museums. Learn more about Picasso, or simply enjoy a stroll through Las Ramblas, one of the most beautiful avenues in the city.
More about exploring and enjoying Barcelona at Barcelona travel guide.
The magical town of Sibiu, Romania
Whether you love stories about vampires or you are interested in history and appreciate natural wonders, you can’t miss Romania. Sibiu is a city that brings history to life without compromising the vibes of a modern city.
If you are a foodie, Sibu is a perfect choice for you. Here you can taste international cuisine and Romanian specialities awarded with 3 Michelin stars. The medieval centre can take you back to the past and turn your vacation escape into a charming fairy tale.
While it is a perfect destination all year long, Christmas lovers adore Sibiu for its beautiful Christmas market.
How to Get Around Europe
If you’re visiting Europe, chances are you won’t stop at just one country. Their geographical locations of countries in various size mashing together means it’s a perfect opportunity to visit various interesting places in one trip. Below are some recommended ways to travel between your destinations:
Ride a Bus
Bus is the perfect choice for short inter city travel and at some places they can bring you to destinations that train can’t reach. It’s usually one the cheapest method too, albeit you might have to sacrifice time for it. If you take a long trip it might be better to choose an overnight one so you can sleep most of the time.
Below are a few options on where you can book your bus ticket:
Take the Train
Using train offers more convenience vs using bus since you don’t have to sit all the time. It also offer competitive price for inter city travel although the price will be higher if you use high speed line or travel long distances. For the latter be sure to compare with air fare.
If you’re going to use train a lot, consider to get yourself Rail passes. A rail pass allows you to travel using train within a specific period of time in a specific country or multiple countries (depend on the pass). Remember that you need to buy your pass from your home country and some countries require seat reservation which is not included in your pass. You can get your Rail Pass here:
If you don’t need rail pass, here are other great alternative to book your train ticket:
Book a Flight
Europe is crammed with budget airlines flying short and long distances, and this is a good news for travelers: more competition means more sweet deals as companies compete for passengers. Just pay attention to a few things before you click that final book button:
- Many deals do not include baggage space, only hand luggage you can bring into the cabin. If you travel with big luggage, you might find it cheaper to book regularly.
- Landing and departing from big airport near or within a city will cost companies a lot, thus sometime they will land on farther, smaller airports to reduce cost. Good for them, but not so much for you since now you have to spend extra cost and time traveling into the city.
If it’s difficult for you to recognize trusted brands here, some of the well known ones are Easy Jet (UK), Norwegian Air Shuttle (Norway), Wizz Air (Hungary), Pegasus (Turkey), Vueling (Spain), Ryanair (Ireland), and Eurowings (Germany).
Rent a Car
From the get go renting a car show obvious benefits such as:
- Able to visit rural areas that might be difficult to reach if you depend on bus and train only
- You can bring much more luggage and doesn’t have drag everything around while visiting a place
- Cut the time being in lines or waiting for the bus/train to depart
- If you’re traveling in a group, the cost would be cheaper since there is no need to buy bus/train ticket per person
If you’re interested in this, remember some points:
- You need a valid international driving permit
- You might need to adjust a bit if the driving lane is different from your home country.
- Gas prices are varied so make sure to do a bit of research, especially if you plan to do road trip within a bunch of different countries.
- Parking cost also will vary depending on the country you’re in.
Join a Tour
If you don’t want to deal with the headache of planning and researching, joining a tour is a great option. You will have all the best destinations cherry picked, transportation and accommodation arranged (sometime along with 1-2 meals per day), and all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the experience. The drawbacks are you might have to visit places you’re not interested in and if it’s a big tour it can be overwhelming being with so many people all the time.
The other alternative on using tour is getting to the country you want yourself then take various small tours ranging from just 3 hours to a whole day. Check GetYourGuide for a selection of short tours at your destination ranging from tasting local delicacies, visiting historical building, or even a few hours of cruising.
Where to Stay
Accommodation selection usually comes to 2 things: budget and whether you’re traveling solo or as a group.
If you’re a solo traveler, consider these selections:
- Hostels: cheap lodging that no longer limited to backpackers. You can meet all sorts of travelers here and probably join group activities here and there. If you’re not comfortable sharing a room with 11 other people, there are always smaller room selections. Hostelworld would be a good place to look for best options.
- Rent a room or a whole apartment: you will need to spend a bit more for this, but in exchange: privacy. In case you choose to rent a room, you might share an apartment with several other renters. Check either Airbnb or Vrbo if this is more to your preference.
- Hotel: the ultimate privacy and often managed professionally, it comes in various price range. You can stay in an okay 3 stars hotel just to lay your head or book that €400 room and enjoy all the luxurious experience it offers. Get the best deal at Booking.com.
In Group/with Family
If you’re traveling in group, generally it would be better to keep it private so the best selection would be either a whole apartment or a few rooms in a hotel according to your budget. If you want to cut the cost ever further, there is always option to stay a bit in the outskirt of the town. Of course in exchange you will have to spend more time in bus/train to reach your destinations.
Best Time to Visit Europe
The best time depend on what you want to see/do (some activities/attraction can only be experienced at certain season), your budget, and whether it’s practical for you and your travel companion.
Summer – Peak Season
Summer (June – August) is the peak season of tourism in Europe with temperature ranging from 15°C – 20°C (59°F – 68°F). The weather is nice, you can wear light clothes, it’s a good time to do outdoor activities, all attractions are open, and you can go pretty much anywhere without worrying if changes in weather would ruin your day.
The down sides are it will be crowded everywhere, transportation and accommodation price will soar, and you might have to wait in line to enter an attraction or even just to grab a meal.
Spring & Autumn – Shoulder Season
Spring (March – May) & Autumn (September – November) are off season (also called low season) with temperature range between 5°C – 12°C (41°F – 53°F). The weather is okay, there will be less visitors around, transportation and accommodation price are at acceptable level.
For most people, these 2 seasons would be ideal and offer the best experience in visiting Europe.
With winter coming in December-February, even less traveler would be around as outdoor activities are limited, some attractions would be closed, and generally the temperature is not very inviting at -5°C – 5°C (23°F – 41°F). However this will be the budget friendliest time to travel and the Christmas celebration will offer unique experience across places/cities you visit.
Your Safety and Covid Policy
Safety when traveling used to mean being safe from pickpocket, scam, and perhaps terrorism, but now with Covid as an unresolved worldwide issue, safety just gets an additional point: is this place/city/country implement serious measures to handle and stop Covid transmission? And if yes, do they accept you as visitor?
Covid policy is fluid and keep changing as the situation improves (or deteriorate). A relaxed country can get into lockdown within days if massive new cases occur at alarming rate. As for now, on average you can visit providing you can show proof of vaccination from a list of trusted vaccine brands. Check the latest policy in the country you’re about to visit here.
Aside from that there is not much you can do to defend against this deadly virus. Use common sense, wear your mask, try to stay away from overcrowded places, and that’s it.
Staying Safe while Traveling
Covid aside, your next safety concern would be pickpocket and petty crimes. This would vary from country to country as each of them has different level of general welfare and average income, but in general this isn’t a big issue. Again, use common sense and try not to make yourself a target by implementing these tips:
- Stay aware of your surrounding, especially if a stranger tries to have a chat with you
- Keep your belonging where you can see them, especially in a crowded place or public transport
- Have a copy of your important documents and keep them separately
Petty crimes aside, there are also terror attacks here and there but in general the chance it happens to you is slim to none. If you’re American, a pretty good analogy would be if a friend ask if it’s safe to visit US with new mass shooting news seems to pop up every few months or so.
All of that being said, things might still happen that is beyond your control so the best way to deal with it is to be prepared. Having a good travel insurance will make it easier to you to deal with something unexpected such as illness, injury, and of course, theft. Check out WorldNomads and SafetyWing for a selection of comprehensive protection plans while you’re away on adventure.
Europe Trip Cost
Your cost will highly depend on what style your trip is. If you take taxi ride everywhere, sleep at a decent hotel, and spare no expense to enjoy the maximum experience a city has to offer, it can add up pretty quickly. On the other hand if you don’t mind some inconvenience such as walking whenever you can, sleep in a hostel dorm, or cooking your own food once in a while, you can slash a good amount of that expenses.
Generalizing a week/month cost is difficult since we’re dealing with multiple countries so here are some pointers hopefully you can use:
- Hostel dorm: €25 – €40 / night
- Hostel private room (not every Hostel offer this): €80 – €100 / night
- Apartment: €60 – €100 / night
- Three star hotel: €160 – €220 / night
- Budget flight: about €50 or less if you find a good deal
- Bus/metro/subway: €2 – €15 (depend if you buy a single trip ticket or take a pass)
- Attraction fee: €14 – €20
- Food: fast food around €5 – €12; decent restaurant cost €15 – €25; more luxurious one cost €30 and above
- Hostel dorm: €10 – €12 / night
- Hostel private room (not every Hostel offer this): €30 – €60 / night
- Apartment: €25 – €40 / night
- Three star hotel: €80 – €150 / night
- Budget flight: about €50 or less if you find a good deal
- Bus/metro/subway: €1.6 – €15 (depend if you buy a single trip ticket or take a pass)
- Attraction fee: €13 – €20
- Food: around €2 – €15