Europe is full of dynamic cities renowned for its museums, gastronomy, nightlife, and architecture, from England and France to Italy and Germany. It should not come as a surprise that selecting the top destinations in Europe can be challenging. Therefore, in order to compile a list of the top travel locations in Europe, U.S. News took into account the highlights of each location as well as user feedback and professional judgement. Vote below to help choose the list for the following year and use it to help you plan your upcoming vacation. While you wait, visit our rating of the Best Hotels in Europe if you need a somewhere to stay.
(Note: The coronavirus outbreak may have an impact on some of the following locations. Before departing, consult the CDC and the U.S. Department of State.)
European nations have a lot to offer tourists, from the cultural landmarks of France to the historical treasures of Italy and Germany’s great list of breathtaking architectural monuments. As a result, choosing the top attractions to go to might be very challenging.
No matter if you’re searching for a mystical location like Stonehenge or a chance to immerse yourself in a world of art and architecture at the historic Prague Castle or the majestic Louvre Museum, we’ve put together a list of the best attractions in Europe.
With this list of the greatest attractions in Europe, you can discover the best locations to visit on this geographically and culturally diverse continent.
More people than ever before travel for work or pleasure. According to the most recent statistics released by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the number of foreign tourists who arrived worldwide increased by 6% in 2018 to reach 1.4 billion, which was only expected to happen in 2020.
Approximately half of all international visitor arrivals—710 million—arrived in Europe alone. The growth was driven by Southern and Mediterranean Europe, while Western and Central Europe continue to be the most popular travel destinations worldwide as well as in Europe.
The 10 most popular tourist destinations in Europe are listed below, along with information on why these destinations are so popular with travellers.
1. Eiffel Tower, France
One of the most well-known landmarks in France is the Eiffel Tower. The wrought-iron tower, which is located in the centre of Paris’s Champ de Mars, was initially constructed to act as the entry to the 1889 World’s Fair.
At the time of construction, the 324-meter-tall tower, which is equivalent to an 81-story skyscraper, was the highest structure in the world. However, engineer Gustave Eiffel’s design drew a lot of criticism, with people labelling it a monstrosity and “an impossible undertaking.”
Restaurants and cafés, souvenir stores, historical displays, Gustav Eiffel’s actual refurbished office, and a number of viewing decks are all located on the tower’s three floors. The Eiffel Tower’s first two levels can be reached by a staircase or a lift, but only an elevator is available for entry to the third level by outsiders.
Golden lights shine throughout the tower at night.
2. Colosseum, Italy
The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheater in Rome, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy and continues to be one of the most recognisable images of Imperial Rome. Using volcanic rock and travertine limestone, it was constructed between 70 and 80 AD. It was the largest amphitheatre in the world when it was built and for a very long time after that. It could accommodate 80,000 people.
The Colosseum is a large, imposing edifice with a base area of 24,000 square metres and an exterior wall height of 48 metres. It once included a velarium (a retractable awning to shield spectators from inclement weather) and a substantial wooden floor covered in sand. Animals and gladiators were imprisoned beneath this floor in a maze of tunnels prior to the contests.
The Colosseum was the location of numerous other performances and spectacles, including reenactments of historic battles and executions, while being most well-known for hosting gladiator fights. More impressively, it was also the site of fake sea battles, when the arena was quickly filled with water and drained of it so that ships might float while the performances were taking place.
The amphitheatre was used as a fortification, a temple, and temporary homes over the years. Stone robbers also took a lot of the loot.
3. Acropolis of Athens, Greece
One of Greece’s most well-known tourist attractions is the historic citadel, which guards Athens from atop a rocky outcrop.
The most prominent structures on the Acropolis were all built in the fifth century BC, all under the watchful eye of the statesman and general Pericles.
The Parthenon, a temple constructed to thank the gods for the victory over Persian invaders, is at the centre of the Acropolis (though it also served as the city treasury for a time). Other notable structures are the Propylaea gateway, which serves as the Acropolis’ entrance, the Erechtheion Temple, which is devoted to Athena and Poseidon, and the diminutive yet stunning Temple of Athena Nike.
During the Morean War in 1687, several of the structures on the Acropolis suffered damage. The majority of the antiquities discovered inside the temples that were spared destruction have now been transferred to the neighbouring Acropolis Museum.
4. Stonehenge, England
One of the most well-known sites in the UK is the ancient monument known as Stonehenge. Stonehenge is located in an area of England noted for its numerous burial mounds and was constructed between 3000 BC and 2000 BC.
The majestic Stonehenge and its surrounds are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is composed of a large ring of four-meter-tall sandstones with an inner horseshoe-shaped stone circle.
Stonehenge’s function is still a mystery. It might have been a burial ground dating to 3000 BC, according to archaeologists. The placement of the stones suggests that it may have been used as a Neolithic calendar, a place of worship, or a scientific observatory. The stones were moved at least 19 kilometres to their present site, and they each weigh approximately 25 tonnes.
5. Louvre Museum, France
The largest and most popular art museum in the world is located on the Seine River’s bank. Over the ages, the original 13th-century Louvre Palace that previously stood here was enlarged and renovated, creating the enormous nearly 73,000-square-meter structure you see today.
The glass and aluminium pyramid outside the museum has evolved into a contemporary representation of the Louvre. Now serving as the museum’s main entrance, it is 21.6 metres tall and 34 metres on each side.
About 35,000 of the astonishing 380,000 pieces in the Louvre’s collection are on exhibit all the time. Along with paintings, these also contain sculptures, sketches, and artefacts from ancient sites. The museum also has the magnificent six by nine-meter Coronation of Napoleon painting and the eight-foot-tall Winged Victory of Samothrace sculpture in addition to Leonardo da Vinci’s La Mona Lisa and the Venus of Milo.
6. Prague Castle, Czech Republic
One of the most well-liked tourist destinations in the Czech Republic, Prague Castle receives almost two million visitors each year. Prague Castle, which features a remarkable fusion of Gothic and Romanesque architectural styles, is acknowledged by the Guinness Book of Records as being the largest castle complex in the entire world.
In the 70,000 square metres of the complex, some of the other buildings were constructed centuries after the 9th century castle itself. Within the Prague Castle complex, St. Vitus Cathedral, St. George’s Basilica, and the 16th-century Golden Lane are some of the most beautiful structures. The palace guards and goldsmiths originally resided in this row of modest mediaeval homes. Years later, Nobel Prize laureate Jaroslav Seifert and author Franz Kafka moved in.
The Czech Republic’s presidential office and a hidden room housing the Bohemian Crown Jewels are both located on the castle grounds. A tiny museum outpost of the National Gallery may be found inside the castle, along with a toy museum that specialises in wooden toys.
7. Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, Germany
The Brandenburg Gate, which was constructed in the 18th century on Frederick William II of Prussia’s orders, has come to represent Berlin. The gate is enormous, measuring over 65 metres in length and 26 metres high, and it is topped by a quadriga, or four-horse chariot.
As it is located where the route that connects Berlin and Brandenburg town begins, the gate owes its name to the town of Brandenburg a der Havel. The gate has played a pivotal role in numerous historical events that have formed Germany during the past two centuries. Despite suffering severe damage from bombs and gunfire, it endured World War II and was utilised as a Nazi symbol.
Up until the erection of the Berlin Wall, the gate served as an unofficial border between East and West Berlin. Additionally, 100,000 people congregated at the Gate to commemorate the fall of the Wall in 1989.
8. Venice Canals, Italy
Every tourist will be delighted by the abundance of beauty, romance, and history in Italy’s enchanted “floating city.” In Venice, more than 150 canals connect 118 tiny islands with more than 400 bridges and numerous walkways. One of the most popular activities in Italy is a romantic gondola trip.
Venice’s allure doesn’t stop at the water’s edge. The banks of the canals are lined with charming lanes and passageways, secret courtyards, and magnificent examples of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. On a gondola sightseeing trip or a vaporetto, Venice’s water bus, you may cruise beneath bridges and around corners of the Grand Canal and get a better view of much of the stunning architecture.
The Grand Canal in Venice, the city’s primary waterway, is surrounded by numerous palazzos and churches, including the Rococo-style Ca’ Rezzonico Palace and the Venetian Gothic Palazzi Barbaro from the 15th century, both of which have entirely white marble facades.
9. The Matterhorn, Switzerland
The Matterhorn is one of Europe’s tallest summits at 4,478 metres. Right over the Swiss town of Zermatt, which is located on the border between Switzerland and Italy, is the breathtaking mountain. The Matterhorn, a well-liked hiking destination in the Alps, is exceptional because it is a pyramid-shaped peak that can be scaled from all four directions.
It is also feasible to finish a 10-day trip around the peak for those who aren’t climbers. This is regarded as one of the most picturesque hikes in the Alps, passing through Alpine woods, flower-filled meadows, and glacier lakes.
Skiers and snowboarders flock to the region around the Matterhorn and Zermatt in the winter because the resorts at Zermatt and Breuil-Cervinia have ski lifts that go to the top of Theodul Pass. Additionally, there is the Matterhorn Museum, which explores the interesting history of alpinism, and a chance to take a helicopter trip to get a close-up glimpse of the snow-covered peaks.
10. Amsterdam’s Canals, The Netherlands
Amsterdam is fed by the numerous hundreds of kilometres of grachten (canals) that cut through the city, earning it the nickname “the Venice of the North.” Over 1,500 bridges connect the city’s islands via its three main canals, Herengracht, Prinsengracht, and Keizersgracht.
The Prinsengracht canal in the Netherlands is arguably the most well-known canal due to the presence of numerous famous structures along its shores. These include the home of Anne Frank, the Westerkerk, the tallest building in Amsterdam, the Deutzen Hofje house from the 17th century, and numerous more magnificent old buildings.
Even though it is not one of the major canals, the Singelgracht is well-known for abutting the posh Jordaan district, where Rembrandt lived until his final years.
Ships bringing back spices from Asia once used another well-known canal, the Brouwersgrach. These days, houseboats frequently park in this canal, which is surrounded by warehouses that have been transformed into posh, pricey homes and lofts.