Best European Cities to Visit (2021)
Updated: Jan 15
Are you planning to travel to Europe and don't know which cities to cover on your trip? This article highlights the 15 best European cities to visit, together with information on when to go and the type of trip you can expect. From France to Italy and Spain, Europe is full of beautiful cities with unique characteristics. Whether you love culture, history, art, or simply a sunny place to relax, you will find it all on this interesting continent. Use this list to inspire your next visit to Europe.
I grew up in Belgium and have visited a large number of cities within Europe. This list includes my personal favorites, but also other opinions have been taken into account. And of course, there are tons of other great cities that aren't listed here. A brief list of other great European cities to visit can be found at the end of this article.
For more European cities and places to visit, download our FREE 100 bucket list destinations list.
Located in the province of Andalusía in Southern Spain, Granada is one of the pearls of Europe! Once the capital of Moorish Andalusia, this charming city is now known for its Arabic influences. Granada’s highlight is undoubtedly the Alhambra, a glorious, historical palace and UNESCO World Heritage site. But this is not the only reason why Granada is one of the best European cities to visit! The downtown area is filled with stunning architectural styles, fascinating historic buildings, cozy squares, and delicious (and very affordable!) restaurants. Add to that the lovely year-round weather and the mountainous scenery surrounding the city. The Sierra Nevada National Park is only a 20-minute drive from Granada and is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts.
The best time to visit Granada
As the city enjoys a pleasant climate, Granada can be visited all-year-round! However, the best time to visit Granada is in May and June as well as September and October. During these months the temperatures are pleasant and the flowers are blooming. The summer can get uncomfortably warm with temperatures rising over 40°C (110F). This was also the case when I visited in August!
Perfect for: Backpackers, Budget Travelers, Foodies, Adventure Seekers, Sun Seekers
London, United Kingdom
Whether it’s for a short weekend trip or a week-long holiday, London will never bore you! It’s a truly cosmopolitan city filled with iconic landmarks. From the Tower of London to the London Bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Westminster Abbey, there is so much to explore. But aside from architecture and history, London truly has something for everyone! Watch a musical at the West End Theatre District, admire art at the Tate Modern Museum, stroll around the famous Nottinghill neighborhood, or go shopping at the world-famous department store named Harrods. And if the weather allows, visit one of the many beautiful parks in the city, such as Hyde Park and the Kensington Gardens. Even though London is considered one of the most expensive European cities to visit, it does boast a range of attractions that are free to visit, including ALL of the museums around the city! I spent 6 months in London and absolutely loved it. I still feel like I haven’t explored it all.
The best time to visit London
Thanks to its vibrant scene, London is an all-year-round destination. Whether you come for shopping, sightseeing, or for entertainment. The city enjoys cool winters and warm summers, with frequent rain all year round. Yet, the mildest weather is from March through November, with large crowds in the summer. My favorite time to visit London is December, right before the Christmas holidays. This is when the city lights up and becomes cozier than ever!
Perfect for: First-time visitors to Europe, History and Art buffs, Fashionista's, Party Goers, Musical Lovers
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Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic, is one of the best European cities to visit for many reasons! Not only is it one of the most budget-friendly destinations in Europe, but it is also home to a number of renowned cultural attractions. Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, and the Old Town Square with the Prague astronomical clock to name a few. And best of all? All these historic monuments can easily be explored on foot. But Prague is not only known for its day activities. The city also has a lively nightlife with a large number of jazz clubs, live music, busy pubs, and modern clubs. The perfect combo if you ask me!
The best time to visit Prague
Prague is best explored from the spring to the early fall. While the summers are generally warm with temperatures hovering between 20°C (70F) and 30°C (90F), the spring and fall are mild. However, most travelers visit during the summer months, which also means larger crowds and higher prices. I visited during September, which was a lot quieter. But on the downside, it was also rainy. So be prepared!
Perfect for: Backpackers, Budget travelers, History buffs, Party Goers
Bergen is a fascinating historical and cultural city on the southwestern coast of Norway. Even though it's the second-largest city in Norway (after Oslo) it retains much of its small-town charm and welcoming atmosphere. Visit the colorful houses in ‘Bryggen’, learn about the city’s historic importance at one of the museums, or discover one of the art galleries. And once you’ve had enough of the city life, explore its surrounding nature. Hike to one of Bergen’s 7 peaks to soak in the spectacular views of the city, the fjord, and the ocean. Or go on a cruise to observe the fjords up close. Bergen is the gateway for fjord cruises and a nature lover's favorite!
Learn more about Bergen and its attractions in our Western Norway Road Trip Itinerary.
The best time to visit Bergen
Bergen is known for its unrelenting precipitation, with an average of 239 rainy days a year! And although the weather is very unpredictable, we’d recommend visiting during the summer months between June and September. This is when the temperatures are the most pleasant and the fjord cruises are running.
Perfect for: Adventure and Nature Seekers, Road Trippers, Cultural Tourists, Outdoor Enthusiasts
Porto is one of the upcoming hip cities to visit in Europe right now - and for a very good reason. Located along the picturesque Douro River, Porto is famous for its delicious port wine. But it is not only the alcohol that makes this city a must-visit. Portugal’s second-largest city offers one of the best sceneries and shopping in the country. Add to that a stunning Old Town with six bridges that give this city a romantic look, it's no wonder that the historic center of Porto was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I totally fell in love with Porto on my visit and I am sure you will too!
The best time to visit Porto
Don’t confuse the weather of Porto with that of southern Portugal! Porto doesn’t enjoy year-round warm weather. Instead, the climate is considered temperate oceanic with mild, rainy winters and pleasantly warm, sunny summers. Hence, the best time to visit is from May to September. Even in the middle of the summer, temperatures are high but bearable because of a constant cool ocean breeze!
Perfect for: Romance Seekers, Foodies, Budget Travelers, Backpackers, History buffs
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Ghent is a charming city located in the heart of Belgium and Europe! Lesser known and visited than the capital of Brussels and tourist-ridden Bruges, Ghent will exceed all your expectations. This laid-back city is filled with public squares, cobblestone streets, lively bars, and medieval architecture. It is one of the most popular university towns in Belgium, which explains the large crowds of young people! The Castle of the Counts is the highlight of the city, offering an audio-tour that is both funny and interesting! But besides that, it is worth just strolling around the city center and the canal. You’ll feel like you're taken back to medieval times. And don't forget to try the delicious Belgian beers and cuisine.
The best time to visit Ghent
Even though Ghent doesn’t get extremely cold (meaning below 0°C/32F), the best time to visit is probably during the spring and summer. This is when the city is most alive and the weather is warm. You’ll find many locals hanging around the canal and the public squares, creating a welcoming atmosphere.
One of our favorite times to visit Ghent is during Christmas time! In the month of December, the Christmas market takes up the whole neighborhood. It’s the most wonderful time of the year for many Belgians (including me!) as they gather around the stalls that are selling local food, mulled wine, and authentic crafts. Watch our video of our visit to Ghent during Christmas time.
Perfect for: History Buffs, Romance Seekers, Weekenders, Party Goers
Also called the Pearl of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik is located in southern Croatia fronting the azure waters of the Adriatic Sea. Encircled with massive ancient city walls, it is a true heaven for history buffs. But aside from the walls, Dubrovnik has a lot more to offer. Catch the vibe of this charming European city by strolling around the quaint limestone streets, dine in panoramic restaurants, or have wine at one of the contemporary wine bars. If it's a sunny day, there are tons of beaches around to explore. A short walk through the Old Town brings you right along the Ploče Gate beach!
The best time to visit Dubrovnik
With a mild climate and an average of 250 sunny days a year, Dubrovnik can be explored at any time. However, the best time to visit is from April to September when it is warm enough to go swimming and sunbathing. All bars, restaurants, and activities are also open and running during this time. Expect larger crowds during the peak summer months!
Perfect for: History Buffs, Sun Seekers, Beach Lovers, Foodies, Backpackers
Edinburgh, Scotland (UK)
Visiting Edinburgh is like taking a journey back to medieval times. This Scottish city has a rich history that dates back before Roman times, which can be found all around the city. Explore the gorgeous Old Town, with the iconic Edinburgh Castle, a historic fortress towering over the city center that was built on an impressive 700 million-year-old volcano. Or stroll through Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s main street filled with hidden gems and exquisite restaurants. And on a sunny day, put on your hiking shoes and soak in the views of the city from above. Calton Hill offers an amazing view of Edinburgh while Holyrood park and Arthur’s seat’s lookout expand over the city, the North Sea, and beyond!
The best time to visit Edinburgh
Edinburgh is not known for its beautiful weather. Instead, the climate is cool, moist, cloudy and rainy for most of the time of the year. The best chance of good weather is from June through August, with temperatures rising to 18°C (65F). This is also the busiest and liveliest time of the year, with festivals filling up the calendar in August. We visited at the end of July and absolutely loved it. The weather was variable, with a few warm and dry days, but also some cold and rainy days. So make sure to be prepared for all kinds of weather, even in summer!
Perfect for: History Buffs, Nature Lovers, Road Trippers, Outdoor Enthusiasts
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Maastricht, the Netherlands
Although often overlooked by travelers, Maastricht is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. We rank it as the number one city to visit in the Netherlands as it is far less crowded and way cozier than jam-packed Amsterdam. The charm can be found in its cobbled old town, where you can find a wealth of history and medieval-era architecture. From the Sint Jans church to the Sint Servaas Bridge, Fort St. Peter, and the beautiful University of Maastricht. But what is also special about Maastricht is its location. Situated in the south of the Netherlands near the borders of both Belgium and Germany, the city’s culture and cuisine are much influenced by its nearby neighbors. And you will see that many day-visitors actually come from across these borders, creating a vibrant, diverse scene!
The best time to visit Maastricht
The best time to visit Maastricht is from June to September. This is when the chances of having warm, sunny days are the highest. Generally, the summer months are warm with temperatures rising frequently above 25°C (80F). However, the weather in this part of Europe is always variable! It can be hot and sunny on the first day and rainy and cold on the next. We completed part of our Master’s in Maastricht and absolutely loved it! We were pretty lucky with the weather that year as we enjoyed many warm, sunny days from April to June.
Perfect for: History Buffs, Foodies, Culture Seekers, Relaxation Seekers, Weekenders
Lisbon is another Portuguese city that should be on your bucket list! Filled with coastal views, historic architecture, idyllic public squares, lively bars, trendy shops, and delicious food, this capital city offers a little of everything! Visit the iconic Belém Tower while gazing at the Golden Gate look-a-like bridge named Ponte 25 de Abril. Explore the Alfama district, a vibrant and historic neighborhood with cobbled streets, ancient buildings, and one of the most beautiful sunset spots in the city, the ‘Miradouro da Graça’. Discover the local delicacies like pastéis de nata, bifana sandwiches, and bacalhau on a culinary tour or enjoy the nightlife at the Bairro Alto district. And if you finally had enough of the bustling city life, go on a day trip to nearby Sintra or Coimbra. Or go surfing at Caxias, one of the nearby beaches. Lisbon is the perfect European city to visit for travelers who love culture, good weather, delicious food, and a good night out, without spending too much money!
The best time to visit Lisbon
Even though Lisbon is an all-year-round destination, the best time to go is from March to October. While the summer is busy and hot, the spring and early fall are pleasantly warm, with cheaper hotel rates and fewer crowds. This time of the year you’ll still be able to squeeze in a few beach days!
Perfect for: Culture Seekers, Foodies, Backpackers, Budget Travelers, Sun Seekers, Party Goers, Surfers, and Beach Lovers
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Copenhagen's royal history, famous landmarks, cycle-friendly zones, and young, hip atmosphere that all make Copenhagen one of the best European cities to visit. Visit the little mermaid, marvel at Christiansborg Palace, walk harborside in Nyhavn, explore the mysterious Christiania, or try the local cuisine at one of the many indoor food markets. And the icing on the cake is that the city is so compact, you can easily explore all these attractions on foot or by bike. Don’t get discouraged by Copenhagen’s ranking as one of the most expensive cities in the world… because most of the sights we just mentioned are actually free!
The best time to visit Copenhagen
Visit Copenhagen during the summer months as there will be sunnier and less chilly/rainy days. The average temperature from June through August ranges between 8°C (46F) to 20°C (70F), which means you’ll still have to be prepared for colder weather! And when you finally find yourself on one of those 20°C (70F) days, you will see ALL the Danish people outside. Tourist facilities and transport services are operating fully during summer and this is when the landscape is also at its prettiest.
Perfect for: Culture Seekers, Backpackers, Foodies, Active Travelers, Solo Travelers
Forget Paris, Marseille, or Lyon, Bordeaux is the French city you should visit! Bordeaux is a beautiful authentic city just like you imagined how France would be. From delicious cuisine to narrow streets, gothic-style architecture, and public green spaces. But what is most exciting (at least in my opinion) is that Bordeaux is the wine capital of the world. With top-notch wine labels and bars, a gorgeous wine museum, and a variety of wine-tasting tours to some of the most famous vineyards in the region, Bordeaux's wine is some of the best in the world. The top wine regions are Saint-Émillion, Saint-Julien, and Médoc. Located in southern France, Bordeaux enjoys a year-round pleasant climate. This is perfect as the ocean is within easy reach as well!
The best time to visit Bordeaux
The best time to visit Bordeaux is between May and November. This is when the weather is the most pleasant and vineyards are open and running. However, take into account that the grape harvest takes place from late August to early October. This is the most important time of the year for wineries, making it a busy and stressful time for wine-makers. As such, many vineyards don’t accept visitors. That being said, the city is very romantic and cozy in autumn and winter, especially when the Christmas markets arrive in the city.
Perfect for: Wine Lovers, Foodies, Culture Seekers, Sun Seekers, Romantic Getaways
Barcelona is one of the most beloved city trip destinations in Europe. From the mountains to the beach, Gaudí to Picasso, and the historic to the modern, it is hard to not fall in love with this diverse city! And it is even harder once you meet its people and indulge yourself in its local culture. Barcelona has a wealth of tourist attractions, such as the renowned Sagrada Familia, Las Ramblas, the Gothic Quarter, Park Guell, and Casa Battló. But aside from that, it is also home to a variety of beaches facing the Mediterranean Sea, a vibrant nightlife, and some of the most delicious cuisine. Tapas and sangría, anyone?
The best time to visit Barcelona
Barcelona enjoys a wonderful Meditteranean climate, with mild winters and hot summers. This means you can visit Barcelona at any time of the year! The best time to visit is May to June, as the weather is pleasantly warm and the city holds many events. Once the actual summer comes around, the humidity and high temperatures kick in, making it the perfect time to go to the beach. However, bear in mind that there will always be tourist crowds. Barcelona is one of the most-visited cities in Europe.
Perfect for: First-time visitors to Europe, Art buffs, Foodies, Fashionista's, Party Goers, Sun Seekers, Beach Lovers, Culture Seekers
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Sitting beside Lake Lucerne in the heart of Switzerland, Lucerne is one of the most idyllic European cities to visit. Both the lake and the mountains are right at your fingertips, whether you want to explore the waters by kayak or conquer nearby Mount Pilatus. And if you want to be truly amazed, go on a day trip to the nearby Swiss Alps. Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest railway station, and the Great Aletsch Glacier can all be explored on a day-trip from Lucerne! But besides its fantastic surrounding landscapes, there is also plenty to do in the city itself. From walking the colorful streets of the Old Town to admiring the medieval bridges and historic buildings. It is a very compact city that can be easily explored on foot!
The best time to visit Lucerne
Lucerne is an all-year-round destination, being a prime skiing location during the winter and a hub for hiking and sightseeing in the summer. Hence, it really depends on what you are looking for. From mid-June to mid-September, you can enjoy the best weather, with many of the surrounding peaks being snow-free. But also expect large crowds and some rainy days!
Perfect for: Adventure and Nature Seekers, History Buffs, Outdoor Enthusiasts, Road Trippers
As the capital of Tuscany, Florence is one of Italy’s most romantic cities. Most famous for its world-class art, Renaissance history, delicious food, and classic Italian culture, Florence is the perfect destination for a romantic getaway. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the historic center is where most of its charm lies, with Medici palaces, the iconic Duomo, and bridges arching over the Arno River. Some of the most eminent art pieces in the world can also be found here: Michelangelo’s ‘David’ and Boticelli’s ‘Primavera’ to name a few. So forget about overcrowded Rome and Venice, and explore the walkable streets of Tuscany’s charming city!
The best time to visit Florence
While the summers are moderately dry, sunny, and hot, the winters are mildly cool and rainy. Hence, the best time to visit Florence is between May and September, when the warm weather holds out. This is also when the city is at its most romantic with open-air dining, art festivals, and plenty of outdoor activities.
Perfect for: Art and Culture Lovers, History Buffs, Romance Seekers, Foodies
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10 other amazing European cities to visit
If you are looking for more travel inspiration than the European cities mentioned here, make sure to download our free 100 bucket list destinations before you head off on your adventure!
What is your favorite European city? Let us know in the comments below!