There are so many interesting European cities, but how do you decide which are the most beautiful ones? First of all, what makes a city attractive? Is it architecture? Landmarks? Or perhaps the cultural life? Read on to find out.
What Makes a Beautiful European City?
Like any other continent, Europe has its fair share of boring and uninspiring cities. But it also has a great deal of captivating ones that will lure you back on and on.
It’s easy to recognize spectacular cities if you traveled long enough. They are colorful and energetic. Have beautiful squares and a balance of large and small streets that should allow for getting lost, on occasion. They are big and yet compact and easy to explore. But most importantly, they have very distinct personalities that can’t be replicated anywhere else.
10 Most Beautiful European Cities
There are many remarkable cities in Europe, but putting together a short list of must-sees is not easy. There will always be stunning places that are left out of such lists. With that in mind, here are my choices for the top 10 most beautiful European cities:
1. Florence, Italy
It’s easy to fall in love with Florence, the home of the Renaissance and the birthplace of our modern world. Its great history, magical gardens and abundance of art will steal your heart right away.
Florence is home to more than one million works of Renaissance (among them Michelangelo‘s David and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus), as well as some of the world’s most famous attractions, including the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, Uffizi Gallery, and the Piazza della Signoria.
The city is also the birthplace of fashion brands like Gucci, Pucci, and Roberto Cavalli. Even though I return time and again, I still want to come back for more.
2. Barcelona, Spain
Spain’s capital, Barcelona, is one the most beautiful European cities, guaranteed to make the list of any Europe itinerary.
If what you want is a big dose of culture, Tapas and Sangria, Barcelona is you place. Or if you just want to spend some time on its beautiful beaches, that works too. Whatever your taste, Barcelona has you covered. Every time you go, you discover something new.
3. Sienna, Italy
Sienna may not have risen to the fame of its neighboring Florence, but it’s alluring atmosphere and red-brick buildings will catch your eye right away. This medieval town with winding lanes and gothic architecture is quite charming.
The town is rich in art, history and traditions. No wonder it is one of the most popular and visited places in Tuscany. Sienna is compact and easy to explore. Everything is close, so you can practically walk almost everywhere.
4. Budapest, Hungary
Like with every place you visit, there are some that you’ll fall in love with instantly and others that you may find interesting, but not necessarily unforgettable.
For me Budapest was love at first sight. The city’s grandiose architecture and rich history make Budapest one of the 10 most beautiful European cities.
Budapest is separated by the River Danube into Buda and Pest, two different parts with very distinctive personalities. Buda is the old, more historical one where you’ll find some of Hungary’s oldest churches.
Pest is the flat, more modern part on the east bank of the Danube. Here is where Budapest really comes alive and the social life takes place. Here is here all the shops, museums, fancy restaurants, and art galleries are located.
5. Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is not an easy place to sum up. First of all, it spreads on two continents: Europe and Asia. Istanbul is an interesting mix of Oriental and Western civilization where the former tends to overshadow the latter.
With its magnificent mosques, beautifully ornate palaces, tumultuous bazaars and miles of gorgeous waterfront views, Istanbul is undeniably a very unique and beautiful city.
6. Riga, Latvia
Riga is all about Art Nouveau architecture, a style that gave the city its trademark look. Intricate floral designs, expressive masks and elaborate geometric forms still decorate the building façades all over the city.
The city became increasingly popular since 1991, when Latvia regained its independence. Riga is today a vibrant cosmopolitan city with lot of museums, fashionable restaurants and a very rich cultural life. Besides its stunning architecture, the city brags about one of the most beautiful old towns, filled with winding alleyways and charming squares, old churches and museums.
7. Stockholm, Sweden
Stockholm is a metropolis on water. Despite spreading across 14 islands, the city seems very compact and easy to explore, with very good connections. Stockholm is clean, stylish and sophisticated, with impressive buildings, grand boulevards, and relaxing green spaces. It’s one of the most desirable cities to visit in Europe.
By virtue of its location on the shores of Lake Mälaren, Stockholm is one of the most beautiful European cities, although it never raised to the fame of Paris or London.
8. Dresden, Germany
Among the big European cities, Dresden is perhaps the most overlooked, although it is quite fascinating. One of the reasons is that at the end of World War II the city was almost destroyed.
The second reason is that after the war, when Germany was divided, Dresden ended up in the Russian sector and the city remained a pile of rubbish for years and years. But after the reunification of Germany in the early 1990s, Dresden experienced dramatic changes.
The city has been rebuilt and brought back to its original splendor. Today Dresden bustles with life, beautiful buildings, old churches, great museums and art treasures. There are very few city skylines more striking than that of Dresden.
9. Paris, France
Paris doesn’t need an introduction. Saying that Paris is one of the most charming and beautiful European cities is a cliché. The city’s unique atmosphere is probably the reason why Paris ranked the #1 most visited city in the world.
There is a lot to see and do in Paris. The city is packed with historical sites, beautiful churches, famous landmarks, world-class museums, and so much more. In you want to visit it properly, you should plan to spend a minimum of 3 days in Paris.
10. Prague, Czech Republic
If you like medieval cities you’ll love Prague. It is one of the best historically preserved cities in Europe, home to the oldest functioning astronomical clock and the tavern where Pilsner beer was first produced.
The “undiscovered” city in Central Europe had only emerged from behind the Iron Curtain of Communism in 1989, but since then millions of tourists flock to Prague every year. And why wouldn’t they? Prague’s Bohemian Old Town Square, the churches and the cobbled streets are so charming and inviting that it would be almost a sin not to walk around and enjoy the scene.
Did you ever visit Europe? What’s your favorite European city?