With its fascinating history and breathtaking scenery, Europe has a special charm that keeps visitors coming back time and time again. There are enough attractions to keep visitors occupied for days, from the Acropolis in Athens to the charming medieval old town of Lisbon. Once you've had your fill of museums, monuments, and art galleries, there's no shortage of fantastic restaurants, cozy pubs, and lively nightclubs to keep you entertained well into the wee hours.
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Nestled at the meeting point of the Rhône and Saône rivers, Lyon is the unofficial cuisine capital of France. The city boasts more than its fair share of Michelin-starred restaurants, but incredible food can also be found in the city's many charming streetside eateries. One of the city's definite highlights is the modern Musée des Confluences, a science center and history museum set inside a modern glass and metal building right by the water. Visitors interested in history should also make time to wander through the narrow streets of Old Lyon; the entire area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Things to Do in Lyon
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The capital of Germany, Berlin is known for its turbulent history, its vibrant nightlife, and its incredible art and culture scene. Visitors interested in history can stroll alongside the remains of the Berlin Wall or stop by one of the city's many excellent museums, while architecture enthusiasts shouldn't miss seeing buildings like the Berliner Philharmonie and the Reichstag. There's no shortage of plays, opera concerts, and other cultural events, but if you're in search of a little more excitement, the city's clubs and bars cater to every age and taste and are open almost 24/7. Things to Do in Berlin
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Sometimes referred to as Oporto, Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal and one of the oldest cities in Europe. It has been continuously inhabited since at least the 4th century. Its rich history can be seen all throughout the city, but special highlights include the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the medieval old town, the lavish 14th century São Francisco church, and the beautiful Palácio de Bolsa, built in the 19th century to impress stock market investors. The city is also internationally known as the home of port wine, and the port cellars across the river are another major draw for tourists.
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Tucked alongside the Danube River, Bratislava is the tiny but fascinating capital of Slovakia. The ancient Bratislava Castle is perched on a hill overlooking the old town, and there are plenty of other historic squares and buildings scattered throughout the city. The city is a wonderful place for nature lovers; not only is it surrounded by vineyards and mountains, it's also crisscrossed with tree-lined paths open to both pedestrians and cyclists. The charming 18th century old town is only open to pedestrians; this is where visitors should go if they're looking for a good cup of coffee or a lively night out on the town. Things to Do in Bratislava
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Bucharest isn't the first destination on most visitors' lists, but it' s an incredibly rewarding destination for anyone willing to step off the beaten path. Although much of the city is now filled with modern buildings, there are still more than enough beautiful Orthodox churches and stunning 17th and 18th century buildings to keep architecture lovers happy for a couple of days. However, the city's best-known landmark is the giant Palace of Parliament, a communist-era building with 1,100 rooms. When you need a break from exploring, stop by one of the city's trendy cafes or visit one of the beautiful parks.
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» Cesky Krumlov
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Although not as popular with visitors as London or Paris, Cesky Krumlov is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. The lovely Vltava River cuts right through the center of the city, providing plenty of riverside picnic spots popular with tourists and locals alike during the summer months. The town is dominated by a stunning 13th century castle that boasts an 11-hectare garden and a 17th century baroque theater. Elements of Renaissance and baroque architecture can be seen throughout the city, and there's no better place to admire the view than from the top of the castle's bell tower. Best Places to Visit in the Czech Republic
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Home to double-decker buses, cozy pubs, and historical architectural gems, London is one of the most visited cities in the world. Remnants of the city's rich history can be seen almost everywhere, from iconic Big Ben to the Tower of London to the grand Houses of Parliament. Visitors will always be able to find a place to enjoy a traditional English tea, but these days, the city is a modern melting pot of cultures and cuisines. You could spend days wandering through the city, but if you're short on time, head to the London Eye observation wheel for a stunning panoramic view. Top Things to Do in London
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» Danube Drava National Park
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Found in the southwest of Hungary, Danube-Drava National Park encompasses approximately 190 square miles of the Danube and Drava floodplain. The two rivers provide a unique habitat that is home to more than 400 protected species of plants and animals, including white-tailed eagles, black hawthorns, and seven invertebrate species that live only in Hungary. A number of interpretative trails wind their way through the park; almost all of these are open to cyclists as well as people on foot. The park is also proud to offer several visitor centers and visitor programs, including guided tours of the park. Things to Do in Hungary
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Draped over a set of rolling hills overlooking the ocean, Edinburgh is a city full of historical monuments and hidden gems. The stunning Edinburgh Castle overlooks the city from its perch upon volcanic remains known as Castle Rock, surrounded by the narrow, pub-lined streets of the city's medieval Old Town. The 18th century New Town offers a different experience entirely, boasting beautiful gardens, well-preserved neoclassical buildings, and sophisticated designer shops and boutiques. The two parts of the city hold UNESCO World Heritage Status, and Edinburgh is also home to worthwhile sights like the National Museum of Scotland and majestic St Giles' Cathedral.
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» Amalfi Coast
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Stretching for 34 miles along the southern side of the Sorrentine Peninsula in Italy, the Amalfi Coast is a dramatic landscape dotted with sheer cliffs, beautiful beaches, and charming pastel-colored fishing villages. It only takes around 90 minutes to drive along the entire coast, but the abundance of excellent hotels and restaurants to be found here makes it very easy to extend your trip to days or even weeks. Visitors can also sip on the limoncello the area is known for, head into one of the towns to browse through the chic boutiques, or enjoy some of the best hiking in Italy.
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Best known as the birthplace of its namesake cheese, Gouda is a charming Dutch city full of wonderful architecture and beautiful canals. The heart of the city is its medieval square, which is home to an array of historical buildings such as the city's 15th century town hall. The square holds an open-air cheese market every Thursday morning during the summer months; a variety of other local products are available as well. However, even visitors who come in the fall or the winter can head to the fascinating Cheese and Crafts Museum, a beautiful 17th century building that formerly served as a cheese weighing station.
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Formerly the royal capital city of Poland, Krakow is still the country's undisputed cultural epicenter. The medieval old town is surrounded by the beautiful Planty Park and remnants of the old city walls; the heart of this area is Rynek Glówny, the largest market square in Europe. Most of the city's historical monuments can be found in the beautiful old town as well, including the 14th century St. Mary’s Basilic and the imposing Wawel Castle. Free walking tours of the city are offered almost every day, and visitors can get a different look at the city by taking a boat ride down the Wisla River.
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Found in the heart of Ireland's lush Shannon region, Limerick has a rich history that dates all the way back to 922 AD, when the city was founded by the Vikings. The city's most recognizable landmark is the stunning King John’s Castle, which sits on the riverbank and was constructed in the 13th century. Other architectural highlights include St. Mary’s Cathedral and the beautiful Georgian homes in St. John's square, and there are also plenty of excellent museums and art galleries. The streets are pedestrian-friendly, but one of the best ways to explore the city is from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage.
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Situated right on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon is the sun-drenched capital of Portugal. Pastel-colored buildings dot the streets of the beautiful old town, and seven iconic hills scattered throughout the city provide no shortage of wonderful viewpoints. One of the best lookout points is the São Jorge Castle; the view encompasses everything from the Tagus Estuary to the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge. The city's location on the coast guarantees that you'll never be far from a delicious meal of fresh seafood, but there are also plenty of restaurants serving everything from traditional Portuguese dishes to gourmet international cuisine. Things to Do in Lisbon
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» Luxembourg City
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Constructed in the deep gorges formed by the Alzette and Pétrusse rivers, Luxembourg City is the capital of the country that shares its name. The city is divided into 24 districts, but two stand out: The beautiful medieval High City and the picturesque Low City, which sits in a gorge that runs through the city. Another highlight of the city is the opportunity to go underground and explore the Casemates Bock, a network of fortifications built in the 18th century. There is also a good selection of bars and nightclubs, most of which can be found in the Clausen along the Alzette River.
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Athens is usually best known for its importance in ancient Greece, but the city is still a thriving metropolis full of art galleries, open-air restaurants, and high-end boutiques. Signs of modern political unrest can be seen in the form of regular protests and graffitied buildings, but it's almost impossible to forget the city's rich past; the Acropolis can be seen from almost every part of the city, and it's not uncommon to see ancient landmarks sitting alongside modern buildings. If you have time left after exploring the Acropolis, it's well worth the effort it takes to stroll through the steep streets of the historic Plaka.
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Munich is perhaps best known for its annual Oktoberfest and its many beer halls, but the city also boasts an impressive array of world-class museums and art galleries, chic boutiques, and charming cafes. The beautiful Neuschwanstein Castle looks like something straight out of a fairy tale, and the central square of the city's pedestrian-friendly old town offers historic buildings, entertaining street performers, and bustling markets. If that's not enough sightseeing for one visit, the Munich Residenz is well worth a visit if you're interested in marveling at the splendor enjoyed by the city's former Bavarian ruler. Things to Do in Munich
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From the iconic spire of the Eiffel Tower to the imposing Notre Dame cathedral, Paris has more than its fair share of world-class architecture and historic monuments. Filled with excellent museums and haute couture stores, the city is a paradise for history lovers and shopaholics alike; on the famed Champs-Élysée, the grand Arc de Triomphe stands guard over dozens of designer boutiques and glamorous shops. Of course, a trip to Paris wouldn't be complete without indulging in some exquisite cuisine, which is easy to do thanks to the city's high density of bakeries, bistros, and gourmet restaurants. Things to Do in Paris
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» Plitvice National Park
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Established in 1949, Plitvice Lakes National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that encompasses more than 73,000 acres of lakes, limestone mountains, caves, and forest. The park is best known for being home to a series of 16 beautiful terraced lakes, which are joined together by a number of small waterfalls and vary in color from green to grey to blue. There are plenty of walkways and hiking trails that allow visitors to explore the area around the lakes, and an electric boat is available to transport visitors between the 12 upper lakes and the four lower lakes.
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Situated very close to the German border, Salzburg offers a wealth of historic castles and churches, views of the Eastern Alps, and the largest intact fort in Central Europe. The Salzach River runs through the city, dividing it into two parts: the beautiful pedestrian old town with its stunning baroque buildings and the more modern 19th century new town. The city is also known for being the birthplace of the famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the building in which he was born has now been converted into a museum displaying some of his childhood instruments and other possessions.
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As the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sardinia boasts more than 1,100 miles of coastline dotted with perfect white sand beaches. There's no shortage of opportunities to relax in the sun or engage in exciting watersports like sailing and windsurfing, but once you're ready for a change of scenery, you can head to the island's mountainous interior to enjoy the many hiking trails it has to offer. It's also a great destination if you're interested in history; the area has been inhabited since Neolithic times, and the landscape features a number of fascinating Bronze Age burial sites and mysterious towers known as nuraghi.
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Set on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, Seville boasts a rich Moorish heritage that can be seen in its many aristocratic mansions and in the ornate Alcázar castle complex. There are plenty of other fascinating bits of history scattered throughout the city as well, including the tomb of Christopher Columbus in the Seville Cathedral, the minaret of La Giralda, and 18th century Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza bullring. A night out on the town in Seville is truly something to remember; the city is famous for its flamenco dancing and its intimate flamenco clubs, particularly in the Triana neighborhood. Things to Do in Seville Spain
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Spread out over 14 islands connected by more than 50 bridges, Stockholm is a fascinating blend of centuries-old history and contemporary culture. The city's charming old town dates back to the 13th century, and its cobblestone streets are dotted with beautiful buildings like the Storkyrkan Cathedral and the Kungliga Slottet Royal Palace. There are plenty of ferries and sightseeing boats available to transport visitors between the islands, making it easy to explore and enjoy as many art galleries, restaurants, and cafes as you'd like. The city also boasts a good number of world-class museums, including the Nobel Prize-oriented Nobel Museum. Things to Do in Stockholm
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Located in England’s West Midlands, Stratford-upon-Avon is known for being the birthplace of the famous writer William Shakespeare. The best time to visit is in late April during the Stratford-upon-Avon Literary Festival, but there are plenty of things to do throughout the rest of the year as well. The town is small and easily walkable; guided walking tours are held every day, and hop-on hop-off bus tours are available most days. Free theater shows are held in The Dell during the summer months, and performances of Shakespeare's own works can be seen in the Royal Shakespeare Theater.
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Valencia is only the third-largest city in Spain, but thanks to its excellent culinary scene and its many beautiful buildings, it's without a doubt one of the best destinations in the country. You don't want to leave town without visiting the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences; highlights include a planetarium, an oceanarium, and an interactive museum. However, there's plenty of green space as well; a beautiful park runs through the city on the grounds of an old riverbed. The city also boasts a handful of beaches, including some in the nearby reserve of Albufera Park.
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25 Best Places to Visit in Europe
- Lyon, Photo: Courtesy of Sergii Figurnyi - Fotolia.com
- Berlin, Photo: Courtesy of Patryk Kosmider - Fotolia.com
- Porto, Photo: Courtesy of saiko3p - Fotolia.com
- Bratislava, Photo: Courtesy of rh2010 - Fotolia.com
- Bucharest, Photo: Courtesy of Balate Dorin - Fotolia.com
- Cesky Krumlov, Photo: Courtesy of kirill_makarov - Fotolia.com
- London, Photo: Courtesy of robert cicchetti - Fotolia.com
- Danube Drava National Park, Photo: Courtesy of Gudellaphoto - Fotolia.com
- Edinburgh, Photo: Courtesy of f11photo - Fotolia.com
- Amalfi Coast, Photo: Courtesy of Boris Stroujko - Fotolia.com
- Gouda, Photo: Courtesy of fotolupa - Fotolia.com
- Krakow, Photo: Courtesy of rh2010 - Fotolia.com
- Limerick, Photo: Courtesy of kwiatek7 - Fotolia.com
- Lisbon, Photo: Courtesy of INTERPIXELS - Fotolia.com
- Luxembourg City, Photo: Courtesy of Sergii Figurnyi - Fotolia.com
- Athens, Photo: Courtesy of Pakhnyushchyy - Fotolia.com
- Munich, Photo: Courtesy of rh2010 - Fotolia.com
- Paris, Photo: Courtesy of ekaterina_belova - Fotolia.com
- Plitvice National Park, Photo: Courtesy of nampv - Fotolia.com
- Salzburg, Photo: Courtesy of disq - Fotolia.com
- Sardinia, Photo: Courtesy of A.Jedynak - Fotolia.com
- Seville, Photo: Courtesy of Delphotostock - Fotolia.com
- Stockholm, Photo: Courtesy of Alexi Tauzin - Fotolia.com
- Stratford-upon-Avon, Photo: Courtesy of Sergii Figurnyi - Fotolia.com
- Valencia, Photo: Courtesy of josevgluis - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Mikael Damkier - Fotolia.com