The Best Places to Visit in Europe: The Top 10 European Cities You Must See

I’ll start by saying that obviously this list of the best places to visit in Europe is my personal opinion. I mean, everyone is going to have different favorite cities, but these are mine – and I hope you get something useful out of the list. I’ve visited them all, and had a great time in each and every one.

The term ‘best city’ is always going to be subjective, a lot of the fun had in cities is partly because of the people you meet there, and the nooks and crannies and pubs and cafes that you discover. But as far as I am concerned, you cannot go wrong if you visit any or all of those cities whilst backpacking across Europe. Let’s do it!

London in England

London, baby! You can’t really do a Europe backpacking trip without visiting London. This behemoth of a city offers everything. The free museums are absolutely stellar – make sure you get to the British Museum as it is well worth it. It’s also a great spot to visit the theatre, and get involved in the indie or art scene. Vintage shopping Camden Town should also be on the agenda.

For those backpacking through on a budget, don’t worry, the choice of inexpensive hostels (well, inexpensive for London that is) is large and varied, and you can get everywhere worth seeing via the famous ‘Tube’ system. If history or partying is your thing, you definitely won’t have a problem in London.

Of course the last time I was there was in the middle of the London riots, so that put a slight dampener on things. But London will always bounce back from such things – it always has and it always will! This is one of those must see cities in Europe, so get it on the itinerary.

Further reading: Fun & Free Things To Do In London

Centre of London, near Covent Garden.


Amsterdam in Holland

Amsterdam is such a beautiful city, I cannot think of any other way to put it. And please remember there is a LOT MORE to the city then The Red Light District and the Coffee Shops. There are loads of vibrant art galleries, pumping night clubs, beautiful parks and smooth gliding bicycles (and old rickety ones too!).

The atmosphere you get whilst traipsing around Amsterdam is second to none.

Of course the infamous Red Light District is a must see attraction, even if you don’t plan on becoming a customer – but don’t forget to leave that area and see what else Amsterdam has to offer. It really is one of the top cities to visit in Europe.

Amsterdam Canal At Night


Paris in France

Ah Paris, the city of love, with its Eiffel Tower and its pyramid Louvre. If you’re backpacking with your girlfriend then I think you’ll be in a lot of trouble if you don’t swing by Paris (I know I would have been). Either way, not visiting Paris would be a travel crime of insurmountable heights from which you would never recover.

The Paris Metro system is extremely easy to navigate, and will take you to all of the hot sights. Of course I did find food and drinks quite expensive but if you find the right little brasserie, café or restaurant it is oh so worth it. What I did was eat a lot from the supermarket, making DIY baguettes and such, and this really helped me keep the costs down so I could eat out a few times whilst I was there and get my fill of delicious Parisian food.

Paris is just delectable (although I will admit, grimy in parts) – but it is definitely one of the most romantic cities in Europe, and if romance isn’t on your ‘To-Do List’, never fear because it has a wealth of other things to do to keep you busy and occupied.

The Eiffel Tower lit up at night in Paris.


Dresden in Germany

I found this little Germany city to be an absolute delight. I was told there that it has the most pubs and cafes per square foot in all of Europe (although someone else later claimed this was San Sebastian – these pesky backpacker rumors!).

If you’re backpacking through, stay in the ‘New Town’ area as that’s where Dresden is alive and grooving (most of the hostels will be in this area). Of course the Old Town is worth a visit and is definitely beautiful, but the heart and fun of Dresden will be found across the river in new town.

It was heavily bombed in World War II, and it has a rich history to delve into if that’s your thing. If you’re heading through Germany, then check out Dresden!

New Town in Dresden.


Munich in Germany

The heart of Oktoberfest, and the best place in the Bavaria region of Germany – and I love a delicious beer, and no-one does that better then Bavaria. Paulaner and Augustiner (my favourite) are the beer kings of Munich, but there is a lot on offer and you won’t be disappointed. I had an absolute blast at one of the local Augustiner beer halls, the food was fantastic and the beer even better – don’t go to the one right in the city centre though (that’s for tourists), ask a German for some directions to a local hall.

There is also the ‘Deutches Museum’ which is one of the world’s largest science and technology collection and definitely worth seeing. Let’s be honest though, a lot of people just come to Munich for Oktoberfest.

Some nice big beers in one of the Augustiner Beer Gardens.


Barcelona in Spain

Barcelona HAS to be on your Europe trip itinerary. HAS. TO. BE. It’s such a cruisy city with a brilliant vibe, and is one of the best places to visit in Europe in summer. My opinion is that not seeing Barcelona is tantamount to failing a trip backpacking through Europe, although a word of advice, it’s best to book ahead in peak season as the good hostels fill up fast.

A quick tip from me, it’s worth staying in a hostel in the city centre, but one that ISN’T ON LAS RAMBLAS. There are a lot of places to party that aren’t on Las Ramblas (it really is the Bane of Barcelona). Talk to your hostel workers to get more information on some great places to go, they should be able to help you out. Barcelona is without a doubt one of the top party cities in Europe.
Of course it has the beach too, that is a mere 10 to 15 minute walk from the city centre – and is not too bad for a beach that is basically right in the city (although I am Australian, so I’m a little bit biased when it comes to great beaches).

There are two things you have to do in Barcelona. First, is seeing Antoni Gaudi’s amazing works, his most famous being the Sagrada Familia. It’s a church, but it’s unlike any other church in Europe. I’m not religious, but I found it truly awesome (go inside guys, it’s worth it). The second thing to do in Barcelona is partying. You might need some time to recover after a few days in Barcelona.

Further reading: My Personal Barcelona Top 10 List

Life in Barcelona (see all the FC Barcelona flags hanging off houses?)


Madrid in Spain

It’s definitely worth visiting Madrid as well as Barcelona whilst you are in Spain. The Spanish love a good celebration and their siesta habits mean they often stay up late, eating tapas and partying the night away. I loved Madrid, and found it just as entertaining and interesting as Barcelona – DIFFERENT – but just as good. It’s another one of those must see European cities (that’s right, add it to the list!).

Madrid is a fantastic city to walk around, and there are three amazing museums there that create what is known as the ‘Golden Triangle’ – the El Prado, Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. They all offer something a little different, but are more than worth seeing.

The locals are fanatical about their football team Real Madrid – so if you like sports and get a chance to watch them play, don’t hesitate!

A lake in a big park in Madrid.


San Sebastian in Spain

Here we are in Spain again! This has got to be up there as one of the best cities in Europe, and is another European city to visit in summer. The old town is small and charming, the shopping is great for those on short holidays, and for backpackers the atmosphere is fun and superb.

There is a giant bay, where everyone can swim and relax on the golden sands – and there is a great surfing beach (called La Zurriola) east across river on the other side of town (which is close to the hostel I stayed at). It’s an easy walk to the surfer beach from the bay and vice versa, so make sure you see both! This area of Spain known as the ‘Basque’ region is also the home of Pinxtos, which are similar to Tapas and are reasonably priced and tasty. So bar hop – grabbing some Pinxtos and a drink at each as you get ready to go out!

I found San Sebastian so relaxing, and had a great time there and met some fantastic people. I’m sure you will too!

On the beach (La Zurriola) in San Sebastian.


Budapest in Hungary

Budapest was a beautiful place to visit, and actually consists of two parts, Buda and Pest. Buda is the hilly west side of the city, and Pest is flat and to the east and is more commercial.

There is a lot to see, from museums to concerts, it is a real hub of activity for Eastern Europe. When you’re there, experience the bath culture, as Budapest is famous for its medicinal thermal water springs!

I remember being there close to winter time, a friend and myself would frequent a cozy little pub and drink warm mulled wine – delicious!

Krakow in Poland

This city was one of my favorites from my big Europe backpacking trip, a large and friendly younger crowd and awesome partying, as well as having access to numerous historical sites from the harrowing Auschwitz (I found it very full-on emotionally, but I still think everyone should see it) to the stately royal Castle Wawel.

Of course it’s a lot more touristy since Poland was listed as part of the EU in 2004, but Krakow is a city that breathes life with good food and a vibrant atmosphere.

So there is my list of some of the best cities in Europe to visit, of course, you can visit whatever cities you like – but hopefully you can take some of these recommendations on board. No doubt as you travel, you will develop a love for a city or country, you may not even be able to put your finger on it, but something about the place will just ‘click’ for you.

Wherever you go and whatever fantastic experiences you have, I wish you safe travels!

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10 Responses to “The Best Places to Visit in Europe: The Top 10 European Cities You Must See”

  1. Miruna says:

    Great article!
    Europe is full of amazing cities and maybe these are the best.

    • Tom says:

      @Miruna – It sure is. Not many places can beat European cities in terms of history, culture and partying! Thanks for commenting.

  2. Alejandra says:

    Great recommendation! Thank for all of your usefull tips 🙂

    Just one thing, spanish is my first language and Gaudi’s church is called La Sagrada Familia. Sangrada means something different.

  3. Jason J. says:

    A list of European cities to visit and NO ONE from Italy???!! LOL
    Yes, if I visit Europe I’d surely chose Munich, Dresden or Krakov over Rome, Florence, Venice etc.
    The weed the author smokes must be very good

  4. Dio says:

    you should be embarrassed:
    istanbul is not at list!
    even it must be number 1 -_-

  5. Genta says:

    Italy ,Greece ,Albania ……full of beautiful places to visit especially during summer.

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