Backpacking across Europe is every millennial’s dream. The continent is rich with culture and history, home to some of the best cuisines in the world, and offers picturesque views and scenery. How do you decide where to go? We’ve compiled eight of the most stunning cities in Europe that you absolutely have to visit.
1. Split, Croatia
If you’re a history buff, a beach bum or a Game of Thrones fanatic (or if you’re all three), Split, Croatia is the perfect place for you to visit. Croatia is renowned for its crystal blue waters and rocky coves, Split offers a variety of picturesque beaches for you to visit. It’s also Croatia’s primary port town, and if you’re looking for more beaches to hit up, you can easily reach surrounding islands like Brac, Hvar and Vis. Diocletian’s Palace, in the heart of the Old Town of Split, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as it is a considerably well-preserved Roman palace. The basement of Diocletian’s Palace is where Daenerys’ dragons were kept in Game of Thrones.
2. Berlin, Germany
It goes without saying that Berlin, Germany, is home to some of the most haunting and unimaginable historical moments of our time. You can visit the starkly beautiful Holocaust Memorial, and the Berlin Wall Memorial and Checkpoint Charlie (on top of several other important historical landmarks.) If you’re a fan of the arts there is Museum Island (also known as Spree Island), which houses several galleries. If you’re looking to have an unforgettable night out or if you’re a huge fan of techno, Berlin is considered Europe’s clubbing capital. If you’re a fan of good craft beer, bratwurst and lederhosen, you’ll want to visit when they’re hosting Oktoberfest in late September.
3. Lisbon, Portugal
If custard tarts are your favourite dessert of all time, then it is absolutely imperative for you to visit Lisbon. Pasteis de Belem is the birthplace of pasteis de nata (or as we know them, custard tarts.) This adorable bakery sits along the waterfront, nearby the architecturally stunning MAAT art museum. Lisbon is also known for its fresh – and affordable – seafood. You have to try the Portuguese traditional dish of bacalhau, which is salted cod. Pair it with some vinho verde to feel like a local. Lisbon is the perfect European city to visit if you’re a new traveller because the locals are friendly and helpful, and the transit system is easy to navigate.
4. Madrid, Spain
This city in Europe is perfect for those who love to explore new places by walking around everywhere. As you walk along, you will see Diego Velásquez’s famous Meninas decked along the streets in a city-wide urban installation. You can see “Las Meninas” at Museo del Prado, but if you’re more interested in modern art, you have to visit La Reína Sofia, which has Pablo Picasso’s famous “Guérnica” and an impressive Salvador Dalí collection. This city in Europe is also great for all of you foodies out there. Locals love to take their time and savour their meals, and love to share several small plates amongst them (better known as tapas.)
5. Florence, Italy
The entire city centre of this European city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is tokened as being the birthplace to the Italian Renaissance. It is right in the Tuscan region and a short-drives distance to some of the best vineyards, which have some of the most picturesque views of the sprawling Italian countryside. Plus, some of the most delicious wines. In Florence, you can see Michelangelo’s famous statue of David, the Duomo Cathedral, and several gorgeous bridges (like the Ponte Vecchio) that cross over the Arno River running through the city. During ‘golden hour,’ approximately 5 pm, the yellow and orange buildings along the Arno reflect on the water, making for a scene you just can’t miss.
6. Istanbul, Turkey
This is a European city you will want to visit if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous. Istanbul is home to unique and colourful bazaars that sprawl throughout its streets, with its most famous one being the Spice Market. You can find everything imaginable there, from spices to Turkish sweets and olives. This city in Europe is rich in history, with many striking landmarks of the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires. For when you are looking to relax, you have to try a Turkish bath or hammam. You’ll get scrubbed down from head to toe and feel like a whole new person.
7. Budapest, Hungary
This city in Europe is by far the most eccentric and quirky one in the continent. If you want something off the beaten path, you definitely want to visit Budapest. While Berlin may offer some of the best nightlife, Budapest offers some of the most unique bars. If you’ve ever wanted to drink in a dilapidated, nearly demolished building, you have to drink at a ruin bar (Szimpla Kert is the OG.) Budapest also hosts breathtaking panoramic views, which we recommend going to Gellért Hill or Fisherman’s Bastion for.
8. Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Lastly, but certainly not least, Amsterdam is a quintessential European city for you to travel to. The town is riddled with adorable (and crooked) houses, canals, and locals riding their bikes throughout the streets. There are plenty of lush parks for you to stroll through and, museums and contemporary art galleries for you to explore. There are also, ahem, plenty of “cafes” for you to check out as well. Amsterdam is also known for its Red Light District, which boasts several salacious sights.