Europe is one of the most sought-after destinations in terms of tourism. A kaleidoscope of cultures, this continent is a fascinating mix of century-old cities, fascinating landmarks, and breathtaking scenery unlike anywhere else on earth. But let’s face it – Europe is huge! There are so many different countries in this part of the world, making it hard to choose where to visit or spend your vacation.
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What are the best countries in Europe to visit?
Obviously, Europe is filled with tons of amazing countries, each offering its own unique vacation charms. The best countries in Europe for tourists, in order, are:
To help you decide where to go, we’ve handpicked the best places to visit in Europe. We know this is a subjective list (beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all), but at least you’ll know a few must-see destinations in this wildly diverse continent.
Picking out the best countries in Europe is subjective, as each country may appeal to different people for different reasons.
However, some of the most popular countries for visitors include Italy, France, Spain, Greece, and Portugal. Other destinations like Germany, Austria, and Croatia are equally as appealing, especially due to their historic cities and beautiful natural surroundings.
While every country in Europe has its own advantages, the following places have earned a spot on our must-see bucket list.
8 of the Best Countries to Visit in Europe
There’s hardly any country that has had a cultural, historical, or gastronomic impact like Italy, which is why it’s ranked #1 for the best country to visit in Europe
Major cities like Rome and Venice are must-see destinations with their monumental landmarks and buzzing piazzas. It’s also worth stopping by other iconic places, including Venice, Naples, and the Amalfi Coast.
But venture outside the popular sites, and you’ll get to experience a more authentic side of Italy that tourists rarely get to see. Enjoy a spritz on a terrace in Bologna, take a boat ride through the waters of Lake Garda, or shop the markets for fresh produce in Sicily. Italy is a cultural treasure chest, and you can’t go wrong with any place you stumble upon.
We can’t talk about the best places in Europe without mentioning France. With over 89 million tourists visiting each year, it’s the most visited country in all of Europe. And for a good reason! The architecture, the food, the mesmerizing scenery of mountains and rivers – that’s enough to convince any traveler to visit.
While Paris is arguably the highlight of France, there are plenty of other must-see destinations to visit during your trip. Head to Provence for the idyllic villages surrounded by olive groves and vineyards.
Or stop by Nice for a relaxing vacation along the French Riviera. But if you’re looking for something more thrill-seeking, make sure to come in winter. Skiing in the French Alps is an experience like no other.
Most travelers flock to Greece for its sun-soaked beaches, lapping blue waters, and laid-back culture.
But there’s much more to this ancient country than its islands (although we’ll admit the islands here are fantastic for a beach vacation)!
Head to its bustling capital of Athens to admire some of the oldest structures known to man, including the Acropolis, Pantheon, and the Panathenaic Olympic Stadium. Or get lost in one of the many charming villages, enjoying fresh Mediterranean cuisine and wine while enjoying the warm hospitality of locals.
Spain is alluring for many reasons. With so many different regions and such distinctly diverse cities and cultures, you could spend years in Spain and still not see everything it has to offer.
After all, this country is home to 44 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 60 islands, and more than 3000 beaches!
City dwellers will enjoy a weekend away in Madrid or Barcelona, exploring art galleries, hitting up shops, and indulging in mouthwatering cuisine. The south also attracts its fair share of tourists for its warm weather and laid-back beaches.
And let’s not forget the north. The Pyrenees are known for their abundant hiking, cycling, rafting, canyoning, and paragliding activities.
Germany is at a crossroads between the old and new. In addition to the colorful timbered villages and grandiose castles, this country also has a booming industrial scene thanks to the automotive and tech industries.
While some major cities are only worth a short layover, destinations like Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg are rich in culture and history.
But it’s the scenery that really puts Germany on the tourist map. The south includes rugged mountains and alpine lakes, perfect for a day of hiking, cycling, or skiing. But head to the north, and you’ll find an entirely different world of beauty between the pine forests and foggy coastline near the North Sea.
Much of Portugal’s culture lies in its maritime past. Situated on the Atlantic Coast, Portugal was a country famed for its naval ships and explorers.
In addition to the port cities of Lisbon and Porto, you can still feel this history in many of the coastal towns where life seems to have come to a standstill. In these sleepy villages, fishermen still navigate the open waters (although they now have to share the ocean with surfers and whale watchers).
However, the southern coastline has transformed over the past few decades. Here, you’ll find the Algarve, a popular destination for those seeking sun and sand. While many consider this region to be gentrified and touristy, it’s still one of the best places in Europe if you want a relaxing vacation.
If you’re looking for a mix of city life and natural beauty, look no further than Austria. This landlocked country may be one of the smallest in Europe, but it’s brimming with more attractions, scenic landmarks, and UNESCO World Heritage sites than many of its larger neighbors.
For example, take a look at Austria’s capital. A paradise for cultural buffs, Vienna is known for its grand Baroque architecture, world-class museums, and thriving art scene.
But if nature is more appealing, then Austria has a fair share of places that are guaranteed to delight. Just head to Kitzbühel or St Anton for unparalleled skiing opportunities in the snow-capped mountains of the Alps.
Over the last few years, Croatia has grown to become one of the hottest destinations in Europe. Most of its appeal is its prime location on the Adriatic Sea, where you’ll find charming towns, pebble beaches, and translucently clear waters.
But besides exploring the medieval cities of Split and Dubrovnik or island hopping along Hvar or Brač, you’ll also have many sites to visit closer inland. Think Venetian palaces, Roman colosseums, and Gothic fortifications.
Croatia also is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts as it is home to 8 different national parks. Visit Paklenica National Park for its pine forests or craggy mountain peaks. Or go snorkeling for wild marine creatures at Kornati Islands National Park.
And finally, don’t miss the picturesque waterfalls at the largest and most famous national park, Plitvice.
Although we have a list of favorite countries, the truth is, you can’t go wrong with any place in Europe. As long as you travel with an open mind, you’ll find that any country you visit will be worth your time and effort!