4 Jan,2019 By Jagabond
Finding my favorite cities in Europe took nearly five years of living there. With so many to choose from, how does one even define the best cities in Europe? The criteria I used was – would I fight to come back? If my job had a trip opportunity to a certain European city, how hard would I work to be the one picked to go?
None of these cities are defined by just one or two attractions. They are all diverse pockets of greatness where an overnight trip is simply not enough. This list will always be fluid, as preferences change over time and I will hopefully see more places in my life. Until the next adventure, here are my favorite cities in Europe.
Good for – lovers of arts and culture
From the street violinists skillfully playing Mozart to the grand opera house towering over a main square, this city exudes class and beauty. Spend a day learning new things at museum quarter, and act like a royal touring Schonbrunn Palace and Gardens. For a romantic evening view Vienna from the sky on the Riesenrad Ferris wheel. This is also one of the best Christmas cities in Europe.
Good for – friendly people and extroverts
Listen for the music on Quay Street…that was my introduction to Galway. The locals play Irish standards as tourists drink endless pints of Guinness. The residents of Galway are among the friendliest in Europe, even winning awards for this distinction. English speakers will find this city a place of comfort. The proximity to Connemara national park is an added bonus for nature lovers.
Good for – warm weather enthusiasts
This region boasts the most sunshine on mainland Europe. The dreamlike city of Sevilla is magical for walking. Take a stroll past the plethora of orange trees to the famous cathedral, make a left along the river and finish up at the Plaza de Espana. Admire the sun as you walk and try getting the perfect picture. The ideal date night in Sevilla would involve a Flamenco show followed by hours of sangria and tapas.
Good for – foodies and budget travelers
Visit Lisbon for an agreeable climate, cheaper prices, outstanding seafood and stunning sandy beaches. Spend time in the Alfama district and discover Fado music, the emotional soundtrack of the city. Amazing day trips to Sintra, Belem and Cascais ensure you’ll never get bored. Get ready for a workout, as walking the streets here means lots of uphill trekking. Find a detailed city guide here.
Good for – those in search of something different
Rovinj sits on the Istrian Peninsula and feels a bit like Italy. There are amazing restaurants here and a quiet seaside vibe. If you wish to escape, you have your choice of visiting other coastal towns, or going inland to see the fantastical Istrian villages. A day trip to coastal Slovenia is also a possibility. This region still flies under the tourist radar…go there now before everyone finds out!
Good for – outgoing historians
Of the five largest cities in Western Europe, Rome is the only one making my list. It’s a big city with a smaller city feel. For those disliking public transport, you can walk to all the Roman sights. Rome has an inherent magic. It’s like the residents have a spiritual connection with the city, thus respecting the history they are living in. Don’t miss the main attractions, but also embrace veering off the beaten path. Rome has layers of interesting stuff.
Good for – those who prefer a realistic city
I have a strong ancestral pull to Edinburgh, sharing a famous surname. This city has the most neighborhood feel of anywhere in Europe, as I was greeting people on the streets I had met the previous night at the pub. Check out the Royal Mile as a curiosity, but quickly escape the crowds and head up the hill to see one of the best castles in Europe. Visit in August for one of Europe’s finest art festivals.
Good for – those wanting an introduction to Scandinavia
This is the jewel of Scandinavian capitals, in my opinion. Take a regal jaunt by strolling around the King’s Garden (don’t miss the Hans Christian Andersen statue) and through the Rosenborg Castle. For kids and young adults don’t miss Tivoli Gardens, one of the best amusement parks in Europe. Shoppers will find streets here lined with high end stores, and foodies can sample the unique flavors of ‘New Nordic Cuisine‘.
Good for – everyone…there is something here for all types
Barcelona is the city for everyone. Fans of architecture, history, religion, nightlife, beaches and food will equally love it here. The Gaudi designed Sagrada Familia is the most gorgeous modern church in Europe. Take the cable car or hike to Montjuic, a park where you can spend hours just walking around and catching great views of Barcelona. The magic fountain shown below is one of many can’t miss attractions.
Good for – first time solo travelers
This is my comfort city for guaranteed good times. Munich never gets boring, especially with easy day trip options to the rest of Bavaria. Healthy eaters beware – too many meals of beer, sausage, potatoes and pretzels are sure to expand your waistline! Park lovers will enjoy a walk in the English Garden, with its river surfers and naked sunbathers. Similar to Vienna, Munich and the surrounding region becomes a winter wonderland for Christmas.
Everyone has an opinion. Favorite cities can differ by so many factors that it’s good to get a range of perspectives. Some of my favorite bloggers and their best of Europe lists are linked below.
April 5th, 2016 at 8:32 am
I have been to many places in Europe but have only made it to 3 on your list. Hoping to explore Edinburgh this summer and will have to make plans to see the rest. Thank you for sharing. Happy Roving!!! Jo
April 8th, 2016 at 10:24 am
Edinburgh was wonderful…I hope you enjoy!
October 14th, 2016 at 2:18 am
That’s an interesting blog indeed!
I’m Indian, and have in the last two years, discovered the joys of Europe. Of the cities you’ve mentioned, I can tick off Vienna, Krakow and Edinburgh.
Come April, I shall visit Santorini, Rome, Florence, the Chianti region (staying at Castello di Gabbiano, a vineyard castle-hotel), Verona and Lucerne.
Any tips on eating – well, not cheap, but non-extortionist? I am 100% vegetarian, I’d like to eat in restaurants with a view, and I do like my wine and vodka.
October 15th, 2016 at 8:05 am
Sounds like a great trip! Having been vegetarian for most of my time in Europe, I can relate to your question. Santorini is pretty easy, since Greek food typically has many vegetarian options. Also, there are quite a few restaurants with great views in both Fira and Oia. Italy is doable meat-free, though there may only be 2-3 vegetarian options on a menu, and you may get stuck with the ‘pizza and pasta’ diet that some vegetarians face there. Typically big cities like Rome and Florence will have more vegetarian options, especially if there is a university population. I’ve never been to Lucerne, but doing a quick search there appears to be many vegetarian options there.
Happy travels and thanks for reading!
May 26th, 2017 at 5:01 pm
I am curious why you did not mention Rome , Paris or Prague 🙂 Because of many tourists ?
May 31st, 2017 at 9:49 am
Yes, at least Rome and Paris always seem to be in the tourist season, so for those I’d just go when it was most convenient with your schedule. Prague is a good idea for May or September, or even an Easter trip as their holiday market is very nice. Thanks for reading!
September 14th, 2017 at 10:59 am
I can’t believe you didn’ mention Prague.
Louxembourg, Dresden, Stockholm or Budapest are way nicer than Copenhagen.
September 14th, 2017 at 11:50 am
I definitely see your argument with Budapest and Prague, both great cities. Thanks for reading!