Europe offers the visitor so much variety and deciding which countries and cities to visit can be a very hard decision. This A to Z of European Cities is a brief summary of some of the most popular destinations in Europe.
It’s by no means a list of the only places to visit but I hope it gives you some destinations to consider visiting on your next holiday to Europe or the UK.
A – Athens
The capital of Greece and one of the oldest cities in the world, Athens dates back more than 3,000 years.
Must-sees include the Acropolis, the Parthenon, a Greek masterpiece completed in 438BC, Plaka and Syntagma Square.
As home to the the very first modern day Olympics in 1896, the Roman Stadium is also worth a visit. Athens is also a great gateway to the stunning Greek islands.
B – Brussels
The largest Belgian city, and the capital of the European Union, Brussels is also one of the best known chocolate making cities in the world.
You can’t leave without walking through the Grand Place – a market square surrounded by historic buildings – or gawking at the Manneken Pis, a 17th century statue of a young boy urinating.
The Royal Palace of Brussels and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts are more refined locations to visit.
C – Copenhagen
The city summarises Denmark in one word!
Historic buildings, large canals and of course, the Little Mermaid are just some of Copenhagen’s delights.
Rollercoaster enthusiasts might stop at the 19th century amusement park, Tivoli Gardens, for a ride on an old coaster. Love all thing royal? There are three royal palaces in Copenhagen including the Queen’s winter residence at Amalienborg.
Those in the mood for a little shopping spree can wander through Strøget, a pedestrian-only street lined with shops.
D – Dublin
Ireland’s capital is the fifth richest city in the world and is a mix of modern architecture and ancient buildings and churches.
Dublin‘s Temple Bar is hopping with bars, nightlife and loud music, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral – dating back to 1220 A.D. – is Ireland’s national Cathedral.
Love whiskey? Tour the Jameson Distillery. Want beer? The Guinness storehouse is the place to be. The National Gallery and National Museum house art and history.
E – Eindhoven
One of Holland’s most famous cities offers visitors the chance to explore unique buildings and enjoy a lovely climate.
If you’re in to museums and animals, Eindhoven is home to Van Abbemuseum (contemporary art), the DAF museum (cars and trucks) and the Eindhoven Museum (Iron and Middle Age archeology) as well as the BestZoo, Dierenrijk and Zoo Veldhoven: Three different zoos where you can come in contact with all kinds of wildlife.
F – Florence
The most famous city in the Italian region of Tuscany, Florence is known for its masterpieces of art, like Michaelangelo’s ‘David’.
Tour the Uffizi Gallery filled with Primitive and Renaissance paintings, or Palazzo Pitti which features Italian and European masterpieces.
If architecture is more your thing, admire the Florence Cathedral, Palazzo Vecchio or the Florence Baptistry. For a little nature, walk through the 15th-16th century Boboli Gardens dotted with fountains and sculptures.
G – Glasgow
The famous Scottish town is full of history, dating back as far as the 15th century, and is full of great stories and beautiful buildings, from all eras.
Enjoy Scottish art at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, and admire the statues of famous Scots in George’s Square.
Kelvingrove Park is a lovely green space where you can walk or cycle, and the Glasgow Botanic Gardens cover 27 acres with plant species and glass houses.
If football is your sport of choice, you may want to visit Hampden Park, the national stadium of Scotland.
H – Helsinki
The Finnish capital, Helsinki, is half water, with gulfs, bays and fjords, combined with lush green grass and snow capped mountains.
If you like military and maritime history, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Suomenlinna is an 18th-century sea fortress.
If the Helsinki Cathedral seems too normal, check out the Temppeliaukio Church which was carved into stone!
Come by train and wonder at the historical Helsinki Central Station and enjoy some nightlife and shopping at Kamppi.
I – Istanbul
Although not fully European as it lies in Asia, too, the connecting Bosphorus Bridge is an outstanding attraction, and Istanbul is over-run by temples and monasteries.
The Hagia Sophia is a museum today, but was the world’s largest cathedral (Eastern Orthodox) for nearly 1,000 years. It was later transformed into a mosque by the Ottoman Empire before opening to the public as a museum.
The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, or Blue Mosque, attracts thousands of visitors, and the 15th century Topkapi Palace is definitely worth a visit.
The Grand Bazaar – a bustling covered market overflowing with goods for sale – is a must-experience spot.
Further reading: Istanbul’s 10 Most Important Historical Sites
J – Jersey
Being in the English Channel, Jersey is half English, half French. You get all the French luxuries in an English speaking country. Perfect!
Mont Orgueil is a Medieval castle with secret rooms that overlooks the Gorey harbor, while the 16th century fortress, Elizabeth Castle, requires a ferry ride to reach it.
The Jersey zoo houses all kinds of wildlife, and the Jersey Museum and Art Gallery houses art and artifacts from the ice age through to WWII.
Meet costumed interpreters at the Hamptonne Country Life Museum where you’ll see historical rural Jersey life first-hand.
K – Kiev
If you trek far east almost into Asia, then you will be rewarded with the treasures found in the former Soviet Union town of Kiev, such as the Central Botanical Gardens.
Visit the catacombs in the Kiev Pechersk Lavra and stay above-ground at Saint Sophia’s Cathedral founded in 1037.
Love cobblestone streets? Andriyivskyy Descent is lined with galleries and shops.
Notable cathedrals worth visiting include St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery and St. Andrews Church. Get to know the folk like of Kiev at Pyrohiv where you’ll find traditional Ukrainian architecture.
L – Lisbon
The Portugese city combines the old (medieval castles and historic town squares) with the modern (cable cars and shopping malls), to make a truly unique city.
For the old, visit Alfama. For nightlife, take a trip to Bairro Alto. São Jorge Castle has 11th-century ruins and archaeological finds, while the Praça do Comércio has plenty of cafes and shops with a stunning arch as a backdrop.
The waterside aquarium, Lisbon Oceanarium, is worth a visit, as well as Christ the King monument inspired by Brazil’s Christ the Redeemer.
M – Munich
The southern German city of Munich is a big tourist attraction for many. BMW World, the Allianz Arena, the National Theatre and Nymphenburg Palace are just some of Munich’s many treasures.
Englischer Garten (the English Garden) offers 78km of trails for biking, walking and running as well as a beer garden by the lake.
A former royal residence, Munich Residenz, now houses museums for public enjoyment.
If you’re looking for local goods, try the Viktualienmarkt – a lovely farmer’s market filled with Germany’s finest produce.
N – Naples
Naples is renowned around the world for delicious pizzas (according to locals, pizza was first invented here), busy harbours and its Mediterranean lifestyle. It’s also incredibly historical.
Have you heard of Pompeii? Climb Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that buried the city thousands of years ago, and later, visit the amazingly well-preserved ruins of the city.
If you love archeology, the National Archeological Museum is a perfect place to spend a few hours, while the Castel dell’Ovo and the Castel Nuovo are two intact fortresses worth a visit.
O – Oslo
Oslo is the perfect destination if you are looking for adventure, with its famous Holmenkollen Ski Jump, or if you are looking for relaxation, you can visit Vigeland Park where you’ll find stunning sculptures by Gustav Vigeland.
Do Vikings interest you? Pay a visit to Vikingskipshuset (The Viking Ship Museum) and see actual Viking ships used as burial tombs as well as other artifacts.
The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, on the other hand, depicts Norwegian life from the 1500s to today. And for those who want to visit castles, Akershus Fortress welcomes visitors.
Further reading: Oslo – Visit Norway’s Stunning Capital
P – Paris
The universally known Paris, is known so well for its art, gardens and buildings, as well as fashion and food. It is a truly lovely city with an endless number of things to see and do.
Besides eating a real croissant at a lovely French cafe, you simply must see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre and gawk at Notre-Dame Cathedral, made famous by Victor Hugo’s novel.
After your visit, go shopping on the Champs-Elysées and take that obligatory photo in front of the Eiffel Tower.
If you have at least half a day to spare, why not tour of the Palace of Versailles and its gardens?
Q – Quimper
Located perfectly in Brittany, on France’s western coast, Quimper is a traditional Breton town.
While it might not be the first spot on your must-visit list, Quimper is laid back and easy going, and it dates back to Roman times.
Spend a couple hours admiring art at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Quimper, and then take in the grandeur of Quimper Cathedral.
Want to take a peaceful stroll or write a little poetry? The Domaine de Boutiguery is a particularly picturesque park. If you visit Quimper when it’s warm, spend some time at the Bénodet Beach.
R – Rome
After dominating the world for centuries, in modern times Rome is now a modern Italian city, offering a wide range of traditional foods and spectactular attractions.
In terms of history, you can’t escape it in Rome: Visit the Colosseum, roam through the ruins of the Roman Forum, make a wish at the Trevi Fountain and sit quietly for a moment in the Pantheon.
There are museums everywhere housing marble statues and ruins, and plenty of gorgeous Cathedrals to admire. Pay a visit to Vatican City and you can tour St. Peter’s Basilica, and spend an entire day in the Vatican Museums where you’ll find the Sistine Chapel among troves of art.
S – Stockholm
Sweden’s capital sits on a 14-island archipelago and is a city full of secrets to discover, with multiple museums and libraries, high-tech public transport, and lots of theatres and stadiums.
You can see an almost entirely-preserved 17th century ship at the Vasa Museum, and enjoy the tours and museum at Stockholm Palace.
Skansen is an open-air museum where you’ll encounter costumed interpreters showing historical Swedish life (and kids can enjoy a petting zoo). The Gröna Lund amusement park features rollercoasters and entertainment all ages.
Finally, any ABBA fans ought to stop into ABBA: The Museum.
Further reading: Stockholm, the sophisticated Swedish capital
T – Tallinn
The largest city in Estonia is known for its arts, as well as its traditional old-style buildings, and it is also blessed with a beautiful bay.
Visit the Old Town to walk on quaint cobblestone streets or enjoy a concert at Raekoja plats, the Gothic-style town hall.
Climb Toompea Hill to the Toompea Castle, originally a 9th-century stronghold and now the seat of Estonia’s Parliament. Kadriorg Palace is another castle, this one acting as an art museum and if you love museums, Kumu is one of the largest art museums in Northern Europe.
You may also want to visit St. Olaf’s Church which has survived many lightning strikes since its construction in the 12th century.
U – Uppsala
Uppsala is a smaller version of Stockholm, and its great bike hire system is a perfect way to explore the quiet town.
The city is filled with ancient cathedrals, like the Uppsala Cathedral, an active Lutheran church where you can enjoy a concert as well as normal worship. Museum-lovers can visit three of them within the Uppsala Castle, or can head over to the Gustavianum that houses Egyptian and Viking relics.
For plant-life, the University of Uppsala Botanical Garden is overflowing with plant species, while the Linnaean Garden is an 18th century botanical garden that has been restored.
V – Verona
Most famous for its romantic Romeo and Juliet setting, Verona also offers a Roman arena still used today for concerts, and the energetic Piazza Delle Erbe, a great place for sipping a coffee and people-watching.
For art, visit the Castelvecchio, and to see the balcony that supposedly inspired Shakespeare, go to the Casa di Giulietta which is a home and museum.
Looking for stunning views of Verona? Climb the 368 steps to the top of the 84-metre-high Torre dei Lamberti which was first built (although much shorter) in 1172 AD.
Legend has it that Romeo and Juliet were married at the Basilica of San Zeno, which you can visit. Another church, the Verona Cathedral, houses artwork by Titan.
W – Warsaw
After being badly damaged in World War II, the rebuilt Warsaw looks as good as ever, and its cobblestone town square and one-of-a-kind metro station, mixes the Stare Miasto (old town) and Nowe Miasto (New Town) perfectly.
Pay a visit to the Royal Castle which has been restored to its previous grandeur. Later enjoy Łazienki Park, which takes up 76 hectares and includes plenty of walking paths, some peacocks and even evening concerts from time to time.
History buffs may want to enter The Warsaw Uprising Museum which is dedicated to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising and the events surrounding it.
X – LuXembourg City
Being such a small country, the city of Luxembourg is pretty much undiscovered by tourists. It is characterised by medieval castles and enjoys a beautiful climate.
Modern art enthusiasts can tour the Mudam, while the National Museum of History and Art includes artwork and artifacts specific to Luxembourg.
For a stunning view of the city, walk along the Chemin de la Corniche and for an adventure underneath the city, visit the Casemates du Boc – a series of tunnels (some dating back to 1644) that were later used as WWII bomb shelters.
Parc Merl is a wonderful modern park in the city where you can grab a bite to eat and walk around.
The United Kingdom isn’t known for great weather, and neither is York, but its lush green gardens, rich history and fantastic facilities make it a worthwhile place to visit.
Train enthusiasts can visit the National Railway Museum and see the Mallard, a steam train that set records in the 1920s (that have not been beaten).
To see what Viking life looked like, pay a visit to the Jorvik Viking Centre, a recreated Viking village museum.
The Yorkshire Museum and the adjoining gardens house archeological finds including a Jurassic exhibit and are a good place for stroll.
Don’t miss a walk along the old city walls or the chance to look inside the impressive York Cathedral.
Z – Zurich
The mega Swiss town is a great place to start a European holiday with an international airport, and a location in the heart of Europe. The Swiss Alps surround it, and together with Lake Zurich, it is extremely picturesque.
Stunning churches worth visiting include Grossmünster and Fraumünster, the latter of which houses the famous stained glass windows by Marc Chagall.
Lake Zurich offers plenty of opportunities for swimming and boating, while Uetliberg is a mountain with hiking trails that give you views of of Zurich.
See hundreds of animal species at the Zürich Zoologischer Garten or go shopping at high-end stores in Bahnhofstrasse.
Further reading: 6 of the best day trips from Zurich