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  • Writer's pictureMadeline Hill

Places you NEED to visit in Europe

Updated: May 24, 2020

With COVID-19 and all of us settled at home right now, I've been itching to revisit my favorite places. Two years ago, my husband and I took a sabbatical and traveled throughout Europe. We visited over 25 countries and fell in love with so many places. Here is a list of our favorite places in Europe to spark that wanderlust with you while you're at home! Hopefully, you can travel to these places once we're given the ok to travel again.

1. Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux, France Porte Cailhau
This is Porte Cailhau- Built in 1495 and was once the main entrance to Bordeaux

This city is more than just incredible wine! We lived in Bordeaux permanently during our year abroad and absolutely loved this city. It had that quintessential French charm. To read more about what to do in Bordeaux, click our blog post here. It's now easier than ever to visit Bordeaux due to the high speed train from Paris!

2. Budapest, Hungary

Budapest Hungary Parliament building
This is the Parliament Building in Budapest- It was inaugurated on the 1000th anniversary of Hungary in 1896

Views on Views! This city is just so charming and you immediately feel at home! Make a trip to a thermal bath or enjoy the stunning views at Fisherman's Bastion. This city is also incredibly affordable, so it should be on your places to visit in Europe!

3. Milan, Italy

Duomo Milan Italy Gelato
Ice cream in front of the Duomo in Milan- the LARGEST Gothic Church in the world!

A beautiful city with so much history. Spend your time climbing the Duomo, eating gelato, and stuffing your face with pizza! It's also an easy day trip to Lake Como by train if you have some spare time.

4. Zakopane, Poland

Zakopane Oscypek mountains snow poland
This is a smoked sheep’s cheese called Oscypek.
Kasprowry Wierch Tatra Mountains Zakopane Poland
Views from Kasprowry Wierch in the Tatra Mountains.

One of the most underrated places! Zakopane is a mountain town located in southern Poland. It's easiest to get to by flying into Krakow and driving into Zakopane. We visited during winter and it was so stunning to see the snow capped mountains. Take the cable cars up to the top of the Kasprowry Wierch summit in the Western Tatra Mountains for incredible views. In summer, the town is just as charming! You must try the delicious polish cuisine in the city centre of Zakopane. These are locally made smoked sheep’s cheese called Oscypek. They’re smoked over a fire and you eat them with a cranberry jam.

5. Lisbon, Portugal

lisbon portugal blue tiles
Lisbon is known for its beautiful tile work too!

Visit one of the oldest cities in the world! Second to Athens, Lisbon is the oldest city in Europe. The history of this city dates back centuries! The entire city is so beautiful and the people are incredibly friendly. Spend your time walking along the water from Belem, where the original Portuguese explorers in the 13th century left to discover the world. Walk along the water to admire the Belem tower, the Ponte de 25 de Abril bridge, the Rua Augusta arch and the Casteolo de Sao Jorge. Don't forget to try one of those Pasteis de Natas- a local egg tart...they're delicious!

6. Bruges, Belgium

Bruges, Belgium
Bruges is known as one of the best preserved medieval cities.

Visiting Bruges is like stepping back into time! This beautiful Medieval city is the perfect combination of charm, chocolate, waffles and beer! We loved walking around to see the cutest houses along the canals. Known as the "Venice of the north," Bruges is known for its many canals. It's major craft may be surprising to's lace!

7. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

amsterdam, the the netherlands
The city of Amsterdam is actually built on poles that are placed a meter or so below sea level!

The city of bicycles and canals! Amsterdam has such a "freeing" vibe to it. Literally, you feel like the people are living life to the fullest. It was beautiful to walk along the manycanals and admire the beautiful houses. Fun Fact: Amsterdam is home to over 165 canals that total over 100 kms. You will see many people traveling around the city by bicycle. Almost every year, nearly 100,000 bicycles are stolen/lost. If you visit during tulip season (mid April- May) make sure to take a train to Lisse to see all of the beautiful fields!

8. Nice, France

Nice France Fennoccio gelato
Make sure to take the short hike up Castle Hill to overlook the city of Nice!

One of my favorite places in Europe! Nice has the beautiful charm of the south of France. The buildings are the colors of the rainbow and the food is absolutely delicious! Interestingly, Nice has only been a part of France since 1860, when Italy repaid France for the help of defending its country over Austria. This gives Nice the beautiful mix of both Italian and French cultures. You will find most restaurants serving pizzas and seafood pastas. Spend your day lounging by the beach or climb Castle Hill for the best views overlooking Nice. Make sure to stop at Fenocchio for the BEST gelato I've ever had! They have fun flavors like avocado, violet, jasmine, and rose!

9. Dublin, Ireland

Dublin Ireland Temple Bar
The Temple Bar is most famous in Dublin for offering over 450 kinds of rare whiskies!

This city just comes ALIVE in the evenings! Enjoy the live music at all of the pubs near the famous Temple Bar! And you definitely have your pick of pubs around the city! In fact, there are over 666 pubs located in the city of Dublin. The oldest pub in Ireland is Brazen Head located in Dublin and was established in 1168. We had a blast visiting this city! It definitely felt like we were living in an Ed Sheeran music video!

10. Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona Gaudi Gothic Quarter, spain
This is the Barcelona Cathedral located in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona. It was constructed in beginning in the year 1298.

Barcelona holds so much beauty! Whether you're visiting the Gothic district, the parks or the beach, there is so much to do in Barcelona! Barcelona is capital city of the Catalonia region in Spain, which uniquely has its own language. Barcelona is very famous for its architecture. Especially the architecture of Modernist Architect, Gaudi. He is original architect for the famous Sagrada Familia church located in the city. FUN FACT: Sagrada Familia has taken longer to build than the Great Pyramids in Egypt! The Cathedral is rumored to be finished in the 2040s.

11. Colmar, France

Colmar France
This beautiful city is almost 12 centuries old!

This is such a unique fusion of French and German cultures. Located on the border of Germany and France, Colmar is 42km south of the capital of the Alsace region, Strasbourg. Visiting Colmar is like stepping into a fairytale story from Disney. We visited during the summer months and found the city alive with flowers every where! The Christmas markets are also known as some of the best in Europe! FUN FACT: The sculptor that designed and built the Statue of Liberty in New York, Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, is from Colmar! There is a small replica of the Statue of Liberty at a round-about when you enter into the city.

12. Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

Neuschwanstein castle Germany Bavaria
This view is from the Marienbrücke bridge

Another fairy tale places in Europe! Neuschwanstein Castle is located in the Bavaria region of Germany. The castle was commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria in the 19th century. It was intended for a king, but unfortunately Ludwig passed away before the castle was completed.

This castle is rumored to have inspired the Disney castle! It's a little bit of a drive from Munich, but so worth it! When you get to the Marienbrücke bridge, keep walking along the trail to even more stunning views of the castle, but without the crowds.

If you would live to visit the interior of the castle, make sure to book your visit in advance. The castle only offers 35 minute tours inside and there is no photography allowed. Nearly 1.5 million people visit this castle a year, making it very busy!

13. Lake Königssee, Germany

Located on the border of Germany and Austria in the Berchtesgaden Apls, this beautiful lake has some stunning views! The water is the most beautiful hue of blue surrounded by mountains. You can take the hike to the secret waterfall in the mountains, or enjoy a boat ride from below! It's a beautiful place among the mountains.

14. Prague, Czech Republic

Another city that felt incredibly homey. Prague, the capital of Czech Republic is a very lively city and known for its abundance of beer drinking! Enjoy walks along the Charles bridge, visits to the Prague castle, watch the astronomical clock strike at the hour! Also, you must try a chimney cake while you're here. Our favorite was at Good Food located just next to the Old Town Bridge Tower. Prague also has an abundance of rooftop views. Our favorite was at Hotel U Prince. Make sure to stop there for a drink!

15. Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik Croatia mount srd
Take the funicular up to Mount Srd for the best lookout at sunset.

Known as the "Pearl of the Adriadic," Dubrovnik became an international sensation due to the popularity of Games of Thrones. The walls that enclose the city were actually built in the 13th century and were armed with over 120 one was attacking Dubrovnik! This city definitely lives up to the hype! We enjoyed walking along the wall surrounding the city. For the best sunset, grab a bottle of wine and take the funicular up to the top of Mount Srd. The sun sets over the city of Dubrovnik and it is absolutely magical.

16. Krka National Park, Croatia

One of the most incredible waterfalls I've ever experienced. The Krka waterfalls pass through the Krka river and drops a total of 242m through a series of cascades and waterfalls. There is an entrance fee, so make sure to visit the website for all of the lates information before visiting. It's located an hour away from Split. Make sure to arrive right at opening to experience the waterfalls without the crowds. And yes, you can swim here too!

17. Kotor, Montenegro

One of the most underrated cities! Nestled amongst the mountains near the Adriatic Bay, it's an easy and scenic drive from Dubrovnik, Croatia. This fortified city has a history dating back to the medieval ages. One of the most beautiful things to do is hike the old fort at sunset that overlooks the Church of our Lady of Health.

18. Venice, Italy

The city if canals! Built on over 118 islands with over 417 bridges connecting all of the buildings, it is one of the most romantic places. The most famous bridge is the Rialto Bridge (in the picture!) It actually plays host to series of market stalls where you can shop! Although it may be a little touristy, definitely splurge on a gondola ride through the canals! FUN FACT: There are over 350 gondolas in Venice and about 400 Gondoliers in the city.

19. Saturnia, Italy

This mythical place is absolutely incredible! The Medieval legend is that Jupiter's thunderbolt fell in a battle with Saturn and created this thermal bath amongst the Tuscan hillside. It is a bit out of the way, but definitely an awe!

20. Positano, Italy

Positano Italy
These houses along the cliffside are also referred to as "The Pyramid of Positano"

It doesn't get more picturesque than this! Imagine looking out your window to the Amalfi coastline of staggering mountains. It really is an Italian dream! Make sure to rent a boat to explore some of the other coastal areas surrounding Positano like Capri, Ravello, and the famous Fiordo di Furore.

21. Athens, Greece

Europe's oldest capital city! Athens holds abundance of history and culture. One of the most famous landmarks in Athens is the Parthenon, a temple built in 438 B.C. and dedicated to the goddess Athena. It is one of the most visited sites in Athens. It sits atop the Acropolis- or highest level of ground in the city, so you can see it from all angles of Athens. Sitting atop the Acropolis, theres an overwhelming sense of awe as you think of the history that has happened in this incredible city.

22. Zakynthos, Greece

Zakynthos Greece Shipwreck beach
The lookout over the famous Navagio "Shipwreck" Beach

My personal favorite of the Greek Islands! Located in the Ionian sea on the Western side of Greece, this island is most famous for Shipwreck Beach, or Navagio Beach. This island has SO much more to offer than just this small beach! Spend your day renting a boat and cruising the island. There are many small islands surrounding Zakynthos that are beautiful from above. One of the most special aspects of this island are the blue caves and arches. There is also a turtle reserve on the island, so you can also spot some turtles while snorkeling!

23. Hallstatt, Austria

Hallstatt Austria
It doesn't get more picturesque than this!

The most charming village nestled in the mountainous Salzkammergut region. A UNESCO marked site, this village is most known for their Salt Mines, which were one of the world's first! This picturesque city is best to visit in the morning before the busses of tourists arrive. It became super popular in 2006 with Asian tourists when it was featured on a South Korean television show as the most "instagrammable town." The Chinese loved Hallstatt so much that they actually replicated the town in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.

24. Étretat, France

Etretat France Normandy
One of the best sunsets of my life!

Monet frequented this coastal city in France to find inspiration for his paintings and you can completely see why! Located in North-Western France in Normandy, this coastal city is most famous for its chalk white cliffside and arches. Erosion of the chalk and limestone cliffside is what has created those beautiful arches and needles in the water. It's also one of the biggest threats to this coastline as the erosion is a constant. It's absolutely stunning to watch the sunset over the cliffside!

25. Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh scotland shortbread
The Edinburgh Castle is actually built on an extinct volcano!

Known as the capital of Scotland, this beautiful medieval city has so much to explore! Visit the Edinburg Castle, home to the infamous Queen Mary of Scots! You can also visit the Scottish Crown Jewels here. If you're a Harry Potter Fan, this city is also for you! Explore all the places that J. K Rowling visited and gathered inspiration for the Harry Potter Series! On a sunny day, it's beautiful to walk around and hear the bagpipes playing. FUN FACT: The shortbread biscuit was invented in Scotland in 1736 and there is a National Shortbread day on January 6th!

26. Rome, Italy

Rome, colosseum, italy,
The Colosseum in Rome is the largest amphitheater in the world! It was built between 72 AD and 80 AD

Ciao Bella! This beautiful city has so much to explore! Spend your time climbing the top of the Vatican or touring the Colosseum. With a history spanning over 28 centuries, there is so much to do here. Did you know... Rome is actually older than Italy? Italy did not become a unified nation until the 19th century, and Rome was founded around 53 B.C. which makes Rome over 2,500 years older than the republic of Italy!

27. Mykonos, Greece

Famous for those beautiful blue and white houses, this picturesque island is a must when visiting Greece! It may have a reputation of being a party island, but it is also a great island for relaxation. Rent an ATV and cruise the island beach to beach!

28. Santorini, Greece

santorini wedding, greece, imerovigli
Image from our wedding in 2016. This small church is in Imerovigli, Santorini

One of the most popular of the Greek Islands, and there's no doubt why. Just watching a sunset overlooking the cliffside of Santorini is enough to take your breath away. We loved this island so much, we got married here in 2016. Santorini is actually an island built on a caldera of volcanic rock. This makes Santorini so unique because it offers black beaches, white beaches, and red beaches. Santorini also has a thriving wine industry and is famous for its sweet wine, Vinsanto.

29. The Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher Ireland
The Cliffs of Moher are also shown in the movies The Princess Bride and Harry Potter!

The Cliffs of Moher are iconic in in Ireland. Located in Co County Clare on the southwestern edge of Ireland, they are one of Ireland's most popular attractions. You can walk along the cliffside for the full span of 14km (or 9 miles). The cliffs stand over 200m tall and are also known to be in some famous movies like The Princess Bride and Harry Potter!

30. Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava castle slovakia
Bratislava Castle sits 85m above the city
Bratislava Slovakia
St Martin's Cathedral is one of the oldest Churches

A hidden surprise! Located along the Danube river between the popular cities of Budapest and Vienna, Bratislava is such a gem! In fact, Bratislava is the only capital city in the world that borders two different countries. If you visit during the Christmas period, the Christmas markets are incredible! Also, make sure to visit the Bratislava Castle upon the hill overlooking the city!

31. Wrocław, Poland

The city of gnomes! As you wander through the Market Square in the center of old town Wroclaw, you may notice the statues of cute gnomes around the center doing some cheeky things! There are now more than 400 of these little guys surrounding the city! Keep your eyes peeled! Wroclaw is located in western Poland and is the capital city of the Lower Silesia province. This city square is one of the most beautiful in Poland. Every building is painted a vibrant color, it's hard to not smile as you walk through the square.

32. Sintra, Portugal

Pena palace in Sintra Portugal lisbon
Pena palace in Sintra Portugal lisbon

A royal sanctuary in Portugal. This small UNESCO heritage town is home to over 10 castles where the royal residents of Portugal would build their summer homes. Now, you can spend a couple of days in this city to visit the castles! The most famous one is Pena Palace. A whimsical castle built atop the biggest hill in Sintra and offers the best views! Make sure to arrive right at opening time and buy tickets in advance to avoid some of the lines.

Although there are many more incredible gems in Europe, these are some of our favorites that we have traveled to so far. Hope this can bring some inspiration when planning your next trip (whenever that may be!) to Europe!

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destinations in europe budapest zakopane lisbon bruges amsterdam nice dublin barcelona colmar neuschwanstein castel prague dubrovnik krka kotor venice saturnia positano athens zakynthos hallstatt etretat edinburgh rome

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