Europe, the name itself conjures up magic vistas of world-class, vast cities, neat and clean roads and autobahns, stunning beaches, beautiful old churches, world-famous, delectable cuisine that varies across each of the 44 countries and what not!!
Who doesn’t want to visit, or even better, settle down in Europe? If you are also planning a trip, this article will take you across the best holiday destinations across Europe, to meet all your different bucket list items.
Europe is the richest and most developed semi-continent on the planet. It offers some of the best destinations for those perfect summer holidays, or an intimate family holiday. Right from Norway in the North, to Greece down south, Europe has some of the best summer holiday destinations in the world.
No wonder then, just deciding which European destinations are the best for visiting during the summer months can be quite an ask. But don’t get all tangled up yet. We’re here to help you.
So, ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts, because you’re in for an unforgettable journey that will leave you asking for more.
The list below is a generic list of the best European destinations. They are preferred by tourists from different parts of the world for their popularity, history, and culture. These are also the best destinations to spend a family holiday.
London is amongst the biggest and most popular cities on the planet. It’s popularly referred to as the “European Capital”. It is a holiday destination by itself. This is one city where the antiquated and the contemporary meet and exist in perfect harmony.
For instance, you’ll enjoy the rich and ancient history of the world-famous Tower of London, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is more than a millennium old, as easily as you’ll enjoy the Avant grade Tate Modern Art Gallery.
Likewise, you can soak in the old-world charm of The Bard’s works, as well as enjoy modern and contemporary plays at the Shakespeare’s Globe and its adjacent Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. The modern Londoner now enjoys his tea, as much as he does his Starbucks and Costa Coffees.
London has many different attractions in and around the city that make it a perfect destination for that summer holiday that you’ve been planning for quite some time. Some of them are –
The London Eye
This world-famous landmark offers 360° views of London city, as it slowly rotates over the Thames river. It consists of 32 glass capsules for unrestricted views of London.
The Tower of London
Who in the world hasn’t heard of the London Tower? A nearly 1,000-year-old monument, it is one of the most famous landmarks on the planet. You can discover its history right through the millennium as a royal palace, a prison, a place of execution, an arsenal, a jewel house, and even a zoo!!
London Transport Museum
A fantastic place to view the modes of transport in London through different eras. The museum hosts exhibitions showcasing the intertwined transport of different eras, against the existing cultural and social history of London during a particular period. The exhibition even includes the very first London Route-master bus and the world’s first-ever underground steam train. A perfect destination for travel buffs.
The View from The Shard is an Observation Tower set up at the very top of Western Europe’s tallest building. What you get here are unrivaled views of the London cityscape, stretching up to 40 miles (64 km) out!!
The above list is just a few of the many other places and sights you get to see when you’re in London. You can additionally check out this article to know more in-depth about the best areas in London.
Let’s now move on to the next major holiday destination in Europe which is –
Paris also called the “City of Lights” attracts millions of tourists each year, due to its incredible ambiance. It’s one of the best destinations for spending a perfect summer holiday. It’s amongst the most visited city amongst all European Capitals. It’s most popular for its fashion and boasts of the latest in fashion trends across the world. It’s one of the “Fashion Capitals of the World”, along with New York, London, and Milan.
Paris also has a variety of world-famous museums, monuments, churches, eclectic fashion houses et al. Its lively nightlife also is one of the reasons for Paris regularly popping up in any list of the best places to visit in the world.
In fact, Paris is by itself, a complete holiday destination. You can spend your entire summer break in Paris, without so much as needing to visit anywhere else in Europe. And why not! When you can easily spend your entire vacation just staring at the beauty and magnificence of the iconic Eiffel Tower, wander through incredibly rare historical artifacts at The Louvre, or just spend a lazy day admiring flowers at the Luxembourg Gardens, there is no reason to leave Paris at all!!
Paris (and France) is also famous for its cuisine. You can enjoy fresh croissants at any of the myriad sidewalk cafes throughout the day. And when the sun sets, just sit down to enjoy an indulging and decadent French meal with some of the finest wine on Earth.
There are many other tourist spots and places of interest when you’re in this great city, some of which are listed here –
The Eiffel Tower
The most distinguishable and immediate identity of Paris and France. Can you even imagine Paris / France without the Eiffel Tower? Constructed by Gustave Eiffel in memory of the French Revolution, it was first unveiled to the world in the year 1889.
The tower is 324 meters tall and is easily one of the most visited monuments on the planet. For the more adventurous traveler, you can actually climb the stairs to the very top of the Eiffel Tower. That’s 1665 stairs high!!
The Notre Dame Cathedral
One of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture on the planet, The Notre Dame is a Roman Catholic Cathedral constructed between the years 1163 and 1345. It’s a sheer sight to behold with sculptures and gargoyles adorning its roof.
The best way to take a tour around The Notre Dame Cathedral is to take a languid walk around the entire cathedral, then go inside and climb the 387 steps right up to the very top of the cathedral where you get uninterrupted panoramic views of the entire region and also get up close to the gargoyles.
The most visited museum on the planet, The Louvre is located in the heart of Paris. It was originally built as a royal palace. It is built across 210,000 sq. meters, out of which nearly 61,000 sq. meters are reserved for the exhibits.
The actual museum is housed inside the Louvre, which was originally constructed as a fortress in the 12th Century, by Philip II. Even today, the remains of the original fortress are visible in the basement of the museum. Louvre is a full day trip, so make sure you have enough time on hand, before venturing out to Louvre.
Originally commissioned by Napoleon, and built by Jean Chagrin, the Champs Elysées is the largest monument of its kind in the world. It’s also called the “Arc of Triumph”, as it was conceived and designed with the idea of paying homage to the legion of vast Imperial Armies of yore.
Beautiful and stunning sculptures adorn the walls of the Champs Elysées. Added to them, the names of 558 Army Generals and their great victories are engraved on top of the Arc. Under the Arc lies “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of France”.
Champs Elysées regularly hosts large gatherings, demonstrations, mass parties, concerts, and other such events. That is one of the reasons a visit to this place is highly recommended when you’re in Paris.
Can you even imagine missing visiting Rome when you’re in Europe? No way. No visit to Italy, or for that matter, Europe, can be complete until you visit Rome. History stands proud and tall at every turn in this Italian Capital.
You have the stunning Colosseum, the St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the breathtaking Trevi Fountain. Rome is like a fairy tale place never to be missed when on a visit to Europe. And if all of these are not enough, you can easily venture beyond the main Roman attractions to visit places like the Trastevere and the Spanish Steps.
Summer holiday destinations
Apart from the above main and world-famous cities, there are many offbeat destinations that you can visit in Europe, during the summer months. Some of these are listed below –
A very cheerful and generous city, Lisbon is one of the top destinations for a breezy summer holiday. Amongst the European countries, Portugal is blessed to have bright and sunny weather, almost all through the year. Nothing personifies this more than Lisbon.
Lisbon is popularly known as “The City of 7 Hills”, as it was originally built upon a group of hills. But today, you can easily travel anywhere in the city, thanks to its Hop-on-hop-off buses, just like London.
When you are in Lisbon, don’t miss to create some time to visit the beach, just 20 minutes away from the city center. Its inviting turquoise waters are a sight to behold for anyone visiting Lisbon.
To know more about this fabulous city, check out this article.
Budapest is yet another summer holiday destination for the history buffs, as well as the budget-conscious traveler. The city has excellent connectivity by all forms of transport and is a fantastic destination for history buffs.
Walk down the cobbled streets and you’ll be instantly taken back in time as you watch in awe at massive Gothic architecture all around you. The city still retains an old-world charm about it. Budapest also has great food available in its multiple fusion restaurants that merge both Eastern and Western cuisines to give you a uniquely delectable fare.
Oh, and while you’re in Budapest, do remember to visit both the Buda and Pest districts. Get the drift?
To know more in detail about Budapest, see this article too.
When we make a list of the best destinations in Europe, there’s no way we can miss Florence. The whole city looks like one big painting!! It actually looks like the entire place was painted in watercolor, and then, infused with life and energy to serve as the capital of Tuscany.
Art lovers will marvel and rejoice at unique masterpieces popping out one after the other. Walking down the cobbled streets will take you to installed masterpieces like the sculpture “David”, by Michelangelo. Florence’s famed art galleries will introduce you to incredible and legendary works of art like Da Vinci’s “Annunciation” and Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus”, just to name a few. Spending just a few minutes in places steeped in such rich history and culture itself is worth the journey.
Florence is also home to the famous Ponte Vecchio Bridge, amongst the most picturesque spots in Europe. This iconic bridge is graced by a multitude of colorful shops selling nitty-gritty stuff, to the millions of tourists crossing it each year. Florence is one of the best destinations across Europe and is always recommended for any tourist visiting Europe.
Amsterdam regularly features in any list of the best destinations in Europe. It is frequently called the “Bikers City”, as the Netherlands encourages and actively promotes using bicycles wherever possible. You will actually find thousands of bicycles on Amsterdam roads, especially during the summer months.
So much so that people in Amsterdam actually prefer taking or renting bikes rather than taking the world-class public transport available to all corners of this city.
You can actually ride languidly through idyllic backwater-hugging residences, or take a cruise along waterways that pass underneath awe-inspiring bridges and arches.
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is one charming town that is heavy on history and culture, yet light on your wallet. It attracts all classes of travelers, right from standard backpackers to nomads to newly married honeymooners, and even the middle-aged and 50+ crowd.
This is one city that has a very rich history tied with communism. It is one of the best destinations for people looking for a culturally rich and diverse city with a very rich history of its own.
Much of Prague is still in development and is being continuously refined. The Old Town is very distinctive in that, it contains centuries of historical buildings and architecture. The new square in the center of the city is completely modern and futuristic though.
For hikers, Prague is the starting point of the Czech – Switzerland National Park at the German border of the Czech Republic.
When the summer starts, this rose-hued city explodes into myriad wonderful colors, attracting tourists by the thousands to its shores. This seaside capital of Catalonia is also home to some wonderful beaches on its southern coast, where you can relax all day, just soaking up the sun by the Mediterranean Sea. Barcelona is one of the best places to visit in Europe during the summer holidays.
While in Barcelona, you can also visit the fantastic Sagrada Familia Church or the famous Park Güell for a relaxed walkthrough. Barcelona, like Prague, is a rare combination of historical significance married to contemporary art and style. Added to all of this, the good food you get here sets the mood for a fantastic time ahead. When in Europe, spending a few days here is highly recommended.
Istanbul is technically the city where Europe ends and Asia begins, and vice-versa. It sits on the border of Europe and Asia, straddling across the Bosphorus Strait. This is another city where history buffs can have a field day, as it is literally a door to the ancient past, and its many rulers who ruled Istanbul through the centuries.
The old town is where most of the “touristy” places are, in Istanbul. Here, you get to see and experience different districts offering different cultural and culinary experiences. The Topkapi Palace is the most famous and widely visited tourist destination in Istanbul.
You can read more about the above destinations here too.
Apart from all the busy and world-famous big cities listed above, Europe has an equally fantastic collection of old-world, quaint towns that are equally fantastic places to visit and spend time in. Some of them are listed below.
A small town nearly 1,500 years old, Ribe is the oldest town in the entire Scandinavian region. It was built in the 8th Century. Though it will be hard to find any monument from that era, the beautiful cathedrals and the timber-wood homes on cobblestoned pathways are well worth a visit.
When you pull up by Hallstatt after a boat trip on the glassy lake, you get a special feeling. The mist rolling down from the Dachstein mountains is a sight to behold for any traveler. This is a place of immense natural beauty and splendor. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage town having churches dating back to the 12th century. Added to that, it’s only a 3-hour drive from Vienna, making it very approachable from other major cities in Austria.
This was an old shipping town on the Eastern coast of Sussex. To add to it, you get stunning views of the town from the St. Mary’s Parish Church Tower or the Ypres Tower, the two tallest and oldest buildings in town. For visitors reaching this old town in early spring, the Annual Bay Scallop Week should not be missed.
Rye is just a 2-hour train journey from London, so it’s easily approachable from the capital and nearby areas. You can also take a road trip to Rye from London.
One of the finest Greek islands, Assos is a lovely bloom-filled village on Kefalonia. This is a tiny hamlet sitting at the bottom of a hill, surrounded by the stunning blue Mediterranean Sea on its 3 sides. You can while away your time on this Greek island by visiting the pebble beach and then tanking up on delicious Greek food on one of the many traditional restaurants lined up by the Marina. A place of great natural beauty, it is one of the must-see offbeat destinations in Europe.
Summer holiday activities
There are many different summer activities you can try when you are on a summer break in Europe. Let’s see some of them here –
A canal tour in Amsterdam, Netherlands
A must-do when you’re in the Netherlands. Just hop on to a ferry and enjoy a picturesque ride down any of the myriad canals and waterways that adorn the country. Boat tours are the best way of exploring Amsterdam and the Netherlands.
Summer skiing in Saas-Fee, Switzerland
Saas-Fee is an all-year skiing and snowboarding destination. It becomes even more beautiful and stunning during the summers. This is an excellent alternative for those who are bored of hitting cliche white sandy beaches. Just imagining skiing down slopes of fresh, white snow in the fresh and pure Swiss Alpine air is sheer bliss.
Hit the beautiful beaches of Nice, France
One of the fast-growing tourist places in France, Nice is a stunning place with white sand beaches and turquoise waters. It is situated on the world-famous French Riviera on the South Coast of France and is home to some of the best beaches in Europe. Most beaches in Nice have beach huts and shacks offering great food, so you won’t have to wander far off from the beach, looking for food. Nice is also famous for its vibrant nightlife. It also has luxury hotels decking up its promenade.
Laze around the untouched beautiful beaches in Montenegro
Yet another destination having some of the best beaches in Europe, most of the beaches here are untouched and unspoiled by visitors. If you get tired of the wonderful beaches, you can take a trip across the many quaint and historic villages dotting the beaches. Lake Como is an added attraction here.
Take part in the San Fermin parade in Spain
The Spanish festival of San Fermin is commonly referred to as “The Greatest Party on Earth”. It is a week-long festival, rooted in the history and culture of Spain. San Fermin is held between 6th to 14th July, every year, at Pamplona, in Northern Spain. The city is a sight to behold during the week of San Fermin, with bright and colorful attires, big-heads parade, fantastic food, wine, and finally the fireworks.
Uncover ancient ruins of the Vatican City in Rome
The Vatican has a lot of ancient and prehistoric ruins that are a history seeker’s paradise. Its scores of museums, cathedrals, ancient monuments are pure treasures for any aficionado interested in ancient Roman history. It is full of ancient and mysterious secrets that completely astound both history lovers and art enthusiasts. Spending a day in the Vatican is almost like being transported into an ancient fairy tale.