Whilst Europe may be one of the smaller continents of the world, you will find no shortage of historical and cultural diversity. In this second post in our series on Europe we’ve decided to highlight the standout destinations that simply cannot be overlooked on your travels. This post will give you an overview of our top ten picks of the best cities to visit whilst on the holiday. It also includes a rundown of the attractions you can’t afford to miss with some useful tips to make your experience that little bit better.
Currency: Hungarian Forints
Nearest Airport: Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport
Useful Phrase: Szia = Hi
Budapest is a city full of life and charm and is lovingly referred to as ‘the Paris of the East’. The capital city of Hungary, is probably most famous for its divine Turkish thermal baths – go to Széchenyi, Gellért or Rudas for a relaxing dip. In addition to the baths, you must make sure to visit the stunning Parliament Building, St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Chain Bridge, Budapest Opera House, the Palace of Arts and the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art. This city is beautiful by day or night so we recommend checking out this Travel Guide for an evening tour of the sights or Absolute Tours for when the sun is out. If you want to find the best view in Prague, climb the 300 steps of St. Stephen’s Basilica, it will leave you absolutely breathless – literally.
Currency: Euros (but maybe not for long)
Nearest Airport: Athens International Airport
Useful Phrase: To onoma mou ine… = my name is…
In Athens you can walk in the footsteps of philosophy’s greats – Socrates, Aristotle and Plato were all products of Greece. It is also the birthplace of modern democracy and one of the oldest cities, which we think makes it worthy of a spot in our top 10. The Greeks never shied away from grandeur and built some of the most magnificent buildings including the Parthenon located on the Acropolis, The Agora, and The Temple of Olympian Zeus. Whilst many of these have succumbed to old age, they are still extremely worthwhile visiting, we recommend Athens Tour Guide or Private Greek Tours for their range of specialty day trips – like this one to the gorgeous island of Aegina. There are also many museums you can visit to soak up some ancient history, Acropolis Museum, National Archaeological Museum and the Benaki are our top picks. Before you leave make sure you go to the Monastiraki Flea Market to pick up a few little souvenirs.
Country: Czech Republic
Currency: Czech Koruna
Nearest Airport: Václav Havel Airport
Useful Phrase: děkuju (dyeh-kooyoo) = thank you
The capital city of the Czech Republic has its own distinctive character and is overflowing with historical wealth; from its rich mixture of roman, gothic and baroque design to its triumph over Nazism and Communism. This ‘City of a Hundred Spires’, as it’s commonly referred to, is full of attractions that have stood the test of time (and wars), including the Prague Castle, the Astronomical Clock, the Old Town Square, the Old Jewish Quarter and the Charles Bridge. If you want to take a tour around the city we suggest trying the free 3 hour tour offered by Sandemans – yes, it won’t cost you anything and is incredibly informative! There are also more fun ways to explore this incredible city; take a Segway tour or try the Jazz boat which will take you on the Vltava river that conveniently meanders through the center of the city!
Nearest Airport: Vienna International Airport
Useful Phrase: Auf Wiedersehen = See you later
A gorgeous European city that does not disappoint. Vienna is filled with imperial palaces, classical concert halls and museums. The Schönbrunn and Hofburg Palaces of the Habsburg Royal Family, St. Stephen’s Cathedral and Rathaus are all structural masterpieces which we highly recommend taking a look at. If you want to take in the sights from above, Wiener Riesenrad (a giant Ferris wheel) located in Vienna’s largest public park (the Prater), is the perfect vantage point to enjoy the best views of the city. Vienna has music running through its veins, with classical masters Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Haydn all composing masterpieces here. We highly recommend visiting Mozarthaus, listening to a classical concert at Bösendorfer Hall, Musikverein or Wiener Konzerthaus or downloading a playlist of the Vienna Four for you to listen to while you stroll through the streets they once walked! If you’re looking for a guided tour with a difference try Polawalk, which will leave you with the perfect souvenir of your trip – unforgettable memories (and some pretty epic Polaroid shots if you ever need a reminder)
Nearest Airport: Rome Airport Fiumicino, Ciampino Airport
Useful Phrase: Come posso andare a… = How can I go to…
When in Italy’s capital we recommend you dive head first into its awe-inspiring architecture where classical, baroque, renaissance and Christian influences have coalesced to create some of the most beautiful urban scenery, buildings and sculptures on earth. Rome has so many attractions but a few stand out: the majestic Roman Colosseum and Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, the Sistine Chapel’s frescos, St. Peter’s Basilica and the legend of the Trevi Fountain. If you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of the elusive Popemobile in the Vatican City which, although is technically its own country, is located in the west of central Rome. Real Rome Tours will give you a guided tour of the city in a day. If you want to tour the city at your own leisure it’s definitely worthwhile investing in a Roma Pass, which gives you free access to 2 museums and unlimited transport on bus, trams and trains plus discounts to other sites.
Nearest Airport: Amsterdam Schiphol
Useful Phrase: Kunt u mij helpen? = Would you help me please?
A charming and alluring city that juxtaposes the picturesque backdrop of canals, museums and narrow houses against hazy ‘coffee shops’, sultry red lights and cycle madness (there are more bikes than cars here). Amsterdam has a broad variety of attractions that can all be admired on foot; the Royal Palace, Anne Frank House, Vondelpark, Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk are all great places to start your trip. We highly recommend taking a bicycle tour if you want a truly Dutch experience. The city also houses work from Holland’s finest artists, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Vermeer. For the more adventurous tourists, Amsterdam’s Red Light District has some shows that will shock (and maybe even delight you).
Language: Spanish or Catalan
Nearest Airport: El Prat de Llobregat Aeropuerto
Useful Phrases: Bon dia, gràcies = Hello/Good Day, Thank you
The jewel in Catalonia’s crown, Barcelona is one of those cities you could easily lose yourself in. The city is just big and vibrant enough that you will never be bored but also equally perfect to spend a day walking around. The mesmerizing architecture in this city is what defines it as one of our favorite destinations in Europe with Antoni Gaudí’s ‘modernista’ style, La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell and La Pedrera are amongst our top sights. Forever Barcelona are the tour guide to go with for a very personal experience of the city. If art is your thing, make sure you visit the Museu Picasso and Els 4 Gats; a former haunt of luminaries Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. Tip: the locals speak Catalan which is a regional dialect in Spain so don’t be caught off guard – they will also speak perfect Spanish. If you want to garner the love of some locals here’s some more useful phrases in Catalan and Spanish.
Currency: Turkish Lira
Nearest Airport: Atatürk International Airport or Sabiha Gökçen International Airport
Useful Phrase: Anlamadım (I don’t understand)
This encapsulating city is a melting pot of East and West and is the 5th most visited city in the world. It’s a hotbed of historical importance that is home to some of the most stunning mosques, whose domes and minarets form part of its iconic sky-line. You must visit the Blue Mosque, The Church of Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia), Topkapi Palace, Byzantine Hippodrome and the Basilica Cistern. For a guided tour of these sites try Daily Istanbul Tours. The Grand Bazaar is an authentic Turkish market place that merges vibrant colors and smells with the bustle of craftsmen peddling treasures like silk carpets, spices and jeweler – it’s also the perfect place to snag a bargain.
Nearest Airport: Charles de Gaulle Airport
Useful Phrase: S’il vous plaît, je cherche… = Please, I’m looking for….
A close second on our list of the top European cities. Paris is the romantic capital of the continent that continues to capture the love of tourists with its beautiful scenery, quintessential cafe bistros and dreamy architecture. You can’t leave without getting to see the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and the Notre Dame Cathedral. For a tour with a difference we recommend Wego Walking Tour or Ultimate Paris Guide. For all you art connoisseurs make sure to visit the Louvre and The Musée d’Orsay or check out the latest exhibition at the funky Palais de Tokyo. Public transport is incredibly easy in Paris and the Metro is the quickest way to get around, stations are pretty easy to come by – just look out for a big yellow ‘M’ (make sure you don’t walk straight into McDonalds – yes they have those in Paris). If you’d like to try something other than ‘Le Big Mac’ during your stay, here’s an all-in-one guide to best restaurants, bistros, patisseries and wine bars courtesy of Paris by Mouth.
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English (albeit slightly posher)
Currency: British Pounds
Nearest Airport: London Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick or Luton
Useful Phrase: Excuse me, Thank you, Sorry – the Brits appreciate politeness
It’s been voted the best city in the world to visit and is number one on our list. London provides an array of options that cater to almost any taste with iconic attractions, museums, bustling markets, Michelin-starred restaurants, shopping, street food and world-class art. There is nowhere else in the world where you can you gaze into the residence of a British monarch, visit four World Heritage sites and still have time for afternoon tea (at the Ritz, if you can). The must sees: Buckingham Palace, The Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Tower of London and the Royal Botanical Gardens. If you want to take the more traditional route and do all your sightseeing in a day there are a number of guided tours that will give you a great overview of the city’s history – try The Original London or See London By Night. For a more thrilling way to take in the sights you could take a River Cruise, hop on the iconic London Eye or our personal favorite rent a ‘Boris bike’. London is an extremely well connected city with innumerable public transport options, we recommend using the Citymapper app for your route planning or Uber if you don’t want to be charged the earth for a taxi. Londoner’s are blessed with access to some of the best museums and galleries; the British Museum, Natural History Museum, The Victoria and Albert and Tate Modern are all filled with art and treasures that you can enjoy totally free. For the shopaholic London provides in abundance with trademark department stores like Harrods, Selfridges and Liberty London as well as hundreds of high street shops on Oxford Street and the largest shopping center in Europe – there is no shortage of ways to indulge!
We hope this list of our top ten European cities to visit has helped give you an overview of the amazing choices available for your next holiday. Don’t forget to check any visa requirements ahead of booking your Euro trip as some countries (outside of the European Union), will require a separate visa (the U.K is one of them).
To really enjoy your time whilst you are abroad we also recommend having regular access to the Internet via a portable wifi Europe device so you can make bookings, contact your tour guide or just check TripAdvisor. Check out what our friends Kat and Penny had to say about using a Tep in Italy and Turkey!
If you want to know about some of the great food dishes you can experience on your European travels then read our recent post on famous foods of Europe.