Europe is a place where travelers are inspired by colorful history, dazzling artistry, scenic beauty, and culinary diversity. It’s a land of magnificent architectural masterpieces, world-renowned museums, impressive art galleries, and some of the world’s most alluring attractions. Several European capitals, major port cities, and sprawling metropolises provide travelers with unique cultural and historical experiences.
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Straddling Europe and Asia, Istanbul is a vibrant city in northwest Turkey that is divided in two by the Bosporus Strait. The city encapsulates the modernity found in the West and the alluring mysticism of the East. Many marauding armies have taken turns ruling this magnificent city over the centuries, including the Greeks, Romans, Venetians, and Ottomans. Visitors will find various physical remains of their tenures all over the city. Visitors will find that the locals have a refreshing generosity of spirit and infectious love for life. The city features several world-renowned attractions for visitors to check out, such as the Aya Sofya church, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, and ancient Hippodrome.
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A powerful balance of edginess and history, Moscow is the cosmopolitan capital city of Russia. This iconic city features everything from lively green spaces to grandiose cathedrals to futuristic skyscrapers to some of Europe’s oldest fortresses. The founding site of Moscow, Red Square and the Kremlin remain the beating heart of the city (and arguably, the nation) – geographically, historically, and spiritually. There are enough splendid attractions in Moscow to keep visitors busy for months; some of which include St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Mausoleum, the State Historical Museum, and Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. This vibrant city boasts an exquisite culinary scene, plenty of artistry and history, and a fervently pulsating nightlife.
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Immersed in history, London is the bustling capital city of the United Kingdom, featuring eye-opening antiquity around every corner. The city’s structures are all striking displays in a beguiling and unique biography, with a great number of them – the Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and Tower of London – being instantly recognizable landmarks. London is a determined innovator of culture and art, it’s a city full of imagination and ideas. Visitors will be surrounded by architectural grandeur in the city’s West End, which features ancient remains and charming pubs that punctuate London’s historic quarters. Visitors should also check out the Coca-Cola London Eye, SEA LIFE London, and The View from The Shard.
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Saint Petersburg is a sprawling port city on the shores of the Baltic Sea in northwest Russia. The sheer history and grandeur of this nation’s imperial capital never fails to amaze anyone who visits. The city’s mighty Neva River, elegant canals, and 342 bridges, have unsurprisingly drawn comparisons to the city of Venice, Italy. The similarities don’t end there; the city’s historic center reveals canals lined with Italianate mansions, only broken up by striking plazas that are adorned with neoclassical and baroque palaces. Saint Petersburg offers a number of superlative attractions for visitors to explore, including The Hermitage, St. Isaac’s Cathedral and Colonnade, and the Church on Spilled Blood.
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The capital of Germany, Berlin has a rich history that dates all the way back to the 13th Century. The city’s combination of grit and glamour is sure to mesmerize anyone who explores its cutting-edge architecture, vibrant culture, fabulous food, tangible history, and intense parties. Truly the city that never sleeps, Berlin’s energetic nightlife caters to every age group, taste, and budget; from industrial techno temples to tiny basement clubs, and fancy cocktail caverns to chestnut-canopied beer gardens. Berlin is also a city that brims with wonderfully fascinating attractions for visitors to explore, including Brandenburg Gate, Museum Island, Berlin Cathedral, and the Berlin Television Tower.
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Spain’s central capital, Madrid, is a beautiful city known for its expansive, well-manicured parks, elegant boulevards, and magnificent architecture. Few cities on earth feature an artistic pedigree as pure as Madrid’s; art lover’s from all over the world return here time, and time again. Masterpieces by home-grown talents Velazquez and Goya adorn the walls within many of the city’s world-class galleries, along with other famous Spanish painters that include Miro, Dali, and Picasso. Madrid is also one of Europe’s richest culinary capitals, wholeheartedly embracing its innovation and creativity within Spain’s gastronomic revolution. The city features a number of attractions that are a must visit, such as Retiro Park, Plaza Mayor, Gateway of the Sun, and the Royal Palace of Madrid.
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With a history that started over 1,500 years ago, Kiev is the heart and soul of Ukraine. This capital city is bisected by the shimmering Dnieper River and is known for its secular monuments, religious architecture, and history museums. A wave of creativity has swept over this vibrant metropolis in the form of vintage cafés, urban art, and 24-hour parties. The budget-minded travelers will appreciate how easy the city’s entertainment and restaurants are on the wallet. The city is filled with a number of alluring attractions, such as Saint Sophia’s Cathedral, the Mystetskyi Arsenal art quarter, Saint Andrew’s Church, and the National Art Museum of Ukraine.
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Rome is Italy’s capital city that is situated halfway between Florence and Naples, just a few miles inland from the Tyrrhenian Sea’s shimmering waters. The city offers a heady blend of awe-inspiring art, haunting ruins, and a vibrant street life. Italy’s energetic capital is among the world’s most inspiring and romantic cities. With roughly 3,000 years of meticulous urban development, Rome’s alluring cityscape provides an exhilarating spectacle. The city’s ancient icons that include the Pantheon, Roman Forum, and Colosseum, recall its golden age as the caput mundi (capital of the world). No trip to Rome is complete without visiting the Trevi Fountain, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and Sistine Chapel.
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One of Europe’s major cities, Paris is the cosmopolitan capital of France, situated on the twisting Seine River. Paris’ monument-lined boulevards, classical bistros, boutiques, and museums, are being enhanced by a fresh wave of creative wine bars, multimedia galleries, tech start-ups, and design shops. Travelers making their first trip to this romantic city will enjoy iconic architecture, glorious food, stylish shopping, and many artistic treasures. The city’s illustrious artistic pedigree includes the likes of Van Gogh, Dali, Manet, Monet, Picasso, Rodin, and Renoir – to name a few. Some of the city’s top attractions include the Notre-Dame Cathedral, Eiffel Tower, Musee du Louvre, and Le Marais.
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Once recognized as “Little Paris,” Bucharest is the charming capital city of Romania. This dynamic and energetic city offers excellent museums, lush-green and sprawling parks, and trendy cafés. The city’s blend of architectural styles that range from the 16th century up to present day are quite dizzying yet fascinating. The Lipscani district features a very energetic nightlife scene; the Eastern Orthodox Stavropoleos Church, and Curtea Veche Palace – from the 15th Century. No Bucharest experience would be complete without visiting some of the city’s famed attractions; such as The Old Town, Palace of the Parliament, Romanian Athenaeum, and Revolution Square.
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The progressive capital of Belarus, Minsk is a modern and clean city that is dominated by Stalinist architecture. Impressive restaurants, fashionable cafés, and packed nightclubs, all vie for the attention of locals and visitors, while art galleries and sushi bars take up residence in part of the city that was once completely remodeled to the likes of Stalin. The city features a myriad of places of interest for anyone that may be fascinated by the Lukashenko and Soviet periods. Beyond the city’s increasing wealth of cosmopolitan opportunities, there are a variety of interesting attractions to explore, including the Museum Strana Mini, Belarusian State Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War, and Victory Park.
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Vienna is the capital of Austria; the city lies in the eastern part of the country along one of Europe’s longest rivers – the Danube River. The city’s intellectual and artistic legacy was shaped by some of the world’s most influential doctors and musicians, including Sigmund Freud, Beethoven, and Mozart. The city has also been recognized for its magnificent Imperial palaces, like that of Schonbrunn and the Habsburgs’ summer residence. The MuseumsQuartier district features contemporary and historic buildings that display works by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and many other renowned artists. Visitors should also check out St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Tiergarten, Belvedere Palace, and the State Opera House.
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Bisected by the Danube River, Budapest is Hungary’s sprawling capital city in the north central part of the country. The city is an architectural treasure trove, complete with enough neoclassical, baroque, art nouveau, and Eclectic buildings to satisfy the masses. Hungarian food is much more than goulash, in fact, it continues to be one of Europe’s most sophisticated methods of cooking. The city also features plenty of cozy cafés, trendy shopping boutiques, island parks, and world-class museums. Budapest is blessed with a number of natural hot springs, making thermal bathhouses king around here. There are several interesting attractions for visitors to check out, including Fisherman’s Bastion, Castle Hills, Szechenyi Chain Bridge, and the Hungarian Parliament.
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Hamburg is one of Germany’s major port cities; it is connected to the waters of the North Sea via the Elbe River. Hamburg continues to be among Germany’s wealthiest cities and is heavily infused with the maritime spirit. Reminders of the city’s history and port can be found everywhere, from the vibrant neighborhoods full of multicultural eateries to the constant cry of seagulls overhead to the famously seedy Reeperbahn red-light district to the seaward-facing architecture. Visitors will appreciate Hamburg’s fulfilling nightlife, bursting with dance-all-night clubs, classy cocktail bars, and charming neighborhood pubs. Beyond the port, visitors should check out Miniatur Wunderland, St. Michael’s Church, and the International Maritime Museum.
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Warsaw is the beautiful capital city of Poland; the city is situated on the nation’s largest and longest river – the Vistula River. Culture and history buffs will feel as though they’ve been transported to a magical wonderland; as the city is brimming with a great deal of educational attractions and world-renowned museums. This gritty city is Poland’s restaurant and entertainment hub; visitors will enjoy affordable cuisine from all over the world, along with their choice of lively clubs and bars. The city offers a number of attractions that are a must visit, including Old Town, Lazienki Krolewskie Museum, The Royal Castle in Warsaw – Museum, and Krakow Suburb Street.
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Barcelona is the sophisticated, cosmopolitan capital of Spain. It is in the northeast Catalonia region, on the Baltic Sea. This enchanting seaside city features fabled architecture, boundless culture, and a world-class dining and drinking scene. The ancient city walls, subterranean stone corridors, and towering temple columns all provide a glimpse into the Roman-era Barcino. The deep blue waters of the Mediterranean and sun-drenched white sand beaches beckon travelers from all around the globe. The forest-covered Collserola hills that loom behind the city provide a picturesque setting for mountain biking, hiking, or simply admiring the view. No visit to Barcelona would be complete without a trip to Guell Park, the Gothic Quarter, and the Picasso Museum.
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Munich is the capital of Germany’s southeastern state of Bavaria. It sits along the winding Isar River. The city is home to numerous museums and centuries-old buildings. Munich has long been recognized as the ‘city of art and beer’, offering a plethora of local pubs and craft breweries, along with fine art quarters and galleries. For the full beer experience, travelers will want to book their trip during the city’s annual Octoberfest – a beer celebration that draws in over six million attendees. Munich offers so much more in its attractions, including English Garden, St. Peter’s Church, Marienplatz, and the Church of Our Lady.
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Kharkov is a large, ex-Soviet city in the northeast part of Ukraine, approximately 40 kilometers from Russia’s border. The sprawling Freedom Square is the resting place of the constructivist Derzhprom building. The picturesque Shevchenko Park is home to beautiful botanic gardens and the Kharkov Zoo. Kharkov State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre regularly stages magnificent performances for visitors to enjoy. Kharkov is a city filled with a number of cultural and educational attractions, as well as entertaining experiences. Travelers visiting for the first time should check out Annunciation Cathedral, Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure, the Kharkov Dolphinarium, and Mirror Stream Fountain.
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Milan is a sprawling metropolis in northern Italy’s Lombardy region, it’s recognized for being a global leader in design and fashion. The city is a treasure trove of rationalist and art deco architecture, as well as 20th-century art. The city’s futuristic architecture boasts an impressive skyline modelled by Cesar Pelli, Daniel Libeskind, and Zaha Hadid. There are also ambitious plans to transform Milan into a major hi-tech city, providing hubs for the likes of Apple, Alibaba, Microsoft, and Google. Visitors could spend weeks exploring the city’s many famed attractions, some of which include II Duomo, Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, San Maurizio and the Archeology Museum, and Castello Sforzesco.
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Belgrade is the bustling capital of Serbia, a nation that borders eight different countries in southeast Europe. Adventurous, outspoken, audacious, and proud; Belgrade isn’t exactly a ‘beautiful’ capital city, but its gritty enthusiasm places it up there among Europe’s most happening cities. It’s a city with monumental architecture, a vibrant and energetic nightlife, and tangible history. The city’s abundance of fascinating museums and cultural attractions would please most history buffs. Visitors will also enjoy affordable and delectable cuisine, premier shopping, and a thriving arts scene. Some of the city’s must-visit attractions include the Kalemegdan Fortress, Church of Saint Sava, Knez Mihailova, and Nikola Tesla Museum.
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Sofia is the pleasingly laid-back capital of Bulgaria. Travelers will find the city just below Mt. Vitosha. Though it’s no grand metropolis, the city is mostly modern and youthful, adorned with a handful of Ottoman mosques and onion-dome-shaped churches. Excavation work during the city’s metro construction recently unveiled a vast number of Roman ruins that date back nearly 2000 years. Away from the boulevards and the buildings, visitors will find manicured gardens and vast parks that offer a pleasant respite. Outdoor enthusiasts will be a short bus trip away from the hiking trails and ski slopes of Mt Vitosha. First-timers should be sure to check out the St. Alexander Nevski Cathedral, St. George Rotunda, and Vitosha Boulevard.
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Prague is the capital city of Czech Republic; it’s a cosmopolitan metropolis bisected by the lovely, lazy, Vltava River. Nicknamed “the city of a Hundred Spires,” Prague is known for its Old Town Square, complete with Gothic churches, colorful baroque buildings, and a medieval Astronomical Clock. Prague’s maze of hidden courtyards and cobbled lanes provide a wondrous paradise for any aimless wanderer, beckoning them to explore the city a little further. Prague’s art galleries might not have the same allure as the Louvre, but Bohemian works of art offer visitors much to admire. The city is home to several fascinating attractions, including Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, St. Vitus Cathedral, St. Nicholas Church, and the National Theatre.
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Nizhny Novgorod is a large and vibrant city that is situated on the winding Volga River in western Russia. The city is known for the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin, a 16th-century fortress that now serves as a Russian monument for defensive architecture. Though less cosmopolitan than St. Petersburg or Moscow, the city’s geographical position, pleasant pedestrian promenade, and magnificent views of the Oka and Volga rivers, give the city quite a bit of appeal. Travelers visiting for the first time will have a plethora of magnificent attractions to choose from, such as Limpopo Zoo, Fedorovsky Embankment, Galileo Park, State Bank, Chkalov Staircase, and the Cathedral of St. Alexander Nevskiy.
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Birmingham is Britain’s second-largest city; it’s located in England’s West Midlands region. The city is going through a period of renewal and regeneration through grand-scale construction. A gleaming shopping center, state-of-the-art library, and restored Victorian buildings, are just a few of the successful initiatives coming from the Big City Plan. Alongside Birmingham’s waterside attractions, outstanding galleries and museums, and picturesque canals is a blossoming scene of cool and/or secret craft breweries and cocktail bars, and gastronomic restaurants. Birmingham features a number of extraordinary attractions for visitors to check out, including the Birmingham Back to Backs, Symphony Hall, Winterbourne House and Garden, and Museum of the Jewellery Quarter.
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The city of Brussels is part of 19 municipalities that make up the Brussels-Capital Region of Belgium. Bureaucratic yet strange, historic yet hip, self-confident yet unpretentious, this city is multicultural to the core. The cityscape manages to swing from quirky to majestic to rundown, and back again. The city is Belgium’s main educational and economic hub, and is remarkably easy-going. Brussels is home to fantastic cafés and restaurants, impressive art galleries, and world-class museums that visitor’s fall in love with every day. Some of the city’s more iconic attractions include the Grand Palace, Mannekin Pis, Saint-Michel Cathedral, Belgian Comic Strip Center, and the Belgian Royal Museum of Fine Arts.
25 of the Largest Cities in Europe
- Istanbul, Photo: Courtesy of olenaznakk - Fotolia.com
- Moscow, Photo: Courtesy of scaliger - Fotolia.com
- London, Photo: Courtesy of Maridav - Fotolia.com
- Saint Petersburg, Photo: Courtesy of iryna1 - Fotolia.com
- Berlin, Photo: Courtesy of TTstudio - Fotolia.com
- Madrid, Photo: Courtesy of Sergii Figurnyi - Fotolia.com
- Kiev, Photo: Courtesy of Ivan Nakonechnyy - Fotolia.com
- Rome, Photo: Courtesy of Boris Stroujko - Fotolia.com
- Paris, Photo: Courtesy of jotily - Fotolia.com
- Bucharest, Photo: Courtesy of Sergii Figurnyi - Fotolia.com
- Minsk, Photo: Courtesy of arcadi62 - Fotolia.com
- Vienna, Photo: Courtesy of JFL Photography - Fotolia.com
- Budapest, Photo: Courtesy of Brigida Soriano - Fotolia.com
- Hamburg, Photo: Courtesy of stefanie - Fotolia.com
- Warsaw, Photo: Courtesy of Patryk Kosmider - Fotolia.com
- Barcelona, Photo: Courtesy of Sergii Figurnyi - Fotolia.com
- Munich, Photo: Courtesy of animaflora - Fotolia.com
- Kharkov, Photo: Courtesy of ioanna_alexa - Fotolia.com
- Milan, Photo: Courtesy of dean - Fotolia.com
- Belgrade, Photo: Courtesy of maylat - Fotolia.com
- Sofia, Photo: Courtesy of tichr - Fotolia.com
- Prague, Photo: Courtesy of Givaga - Fotolia.com
- Nizhny Novgorod, Photo: Courtesy of Dmitry Vereshchagin - Fotolia.com
- Birmingham, Photo: Courtesy of dudlajzov - Fotolia.com
- Brussels, Photo: Courtesy of ilolab - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of fotolesnik - Fotolia.com