A recent post on Beyond Blighty covered a few of the best city breaks in Western Europe. Admittedly, this was based on personal experience, and many destinations didn’t get a look in for the simple reason that I hadn’t been there yet. With this in mind, I’ve borrowed the results of a recent study by GoEuro and HomeToGo to bring you an accurate run down of the top 10 European Cities to Visit in 2017.
In order to determine which cities would make the cut, three very important variables were considered: an accommodation index, a fun ranking and – perhaps most importantly – the price of beer. So, here they are – in reverse order.
TOP 10 EUROPEAN CITIES
Said to have been ‘founded by Hercules’, Seville, in the south of Spain, is a popular day trip from the Costa del Sol and a worthwhile weekend destination in its own right. It’s home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, in addition to plenty more historic buildings and a large number of museums and parks. Known to be one of the hottest cities in Western Europe, it attracts sun seekers all year round. Semana Santa and the Feria de Abril are two hugely popular annual festivals.
Hungary’s capital, Budapest, is famous for its thermal springs and medicinal baths. It also has the oldest subway line in mainland Europe and the second largest synagogue in the world. The Sziget Music Festival takes place there in August and is frequently referenced as one of the best festivals in Europe.
One of the most recognisable buildings in Krakow, Poland, is St Mary’s Basilica. An hourly trumpet call sounds from its tower, but always stops short. This is to symbolise the legend of a trumpeter who, in the 13th century, tried to warn locals of an impending attack but was killed by an enemy’s arrow. This city is proud of its meat-rich dishes, medieval streets, markets and folklore. If you’re lucky enough to visit, keep an eye out for the dragon, which is said to keep watch over the city and its inhabitants!
Sprawled over the contours of seven hills, and with access to some gorgeous sandy beaches, Lisbon is an incredibly beautiful destination. Although it’s the oldest city in Western Europe, many of its ancient buildings were destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1755. Popular activities for a weekend in Lisbon include taking a tour of the colourful street art and visiting one of the world’s largest aquariums. Don’t miss your chance to try the Pastéis de Belém. These sweet custard tarts are a city delicacy.
France is the most visited country in the world, and its capital, Paris, receives more tourists than anywhere else. Unmissable feats of architecture include the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Couer and Notre Dame Cathedral, and a night out at the Moulin Rouge is a must. Although it’s frequently thought of as a romantic destination, it’s easy for singles to enjoy Paris too.
One of the best ways to explore London is to head into the city centre and just keep walking. Many of the interesting sights lie along the river Thames, including the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tate Modern art gallery. You might also consider stopping by at the London Aquarium or taking a ride on the London Eye. Of course, the biggest tourist attraction these days is the Harry Potter museum! Not too far from the river, you will find Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street and the Horseguard’s Parade. River cruises are a great way to see more in a short space of time, especially if you plan on popping over to Canary Wharf, the Millennium Dome and Olympic park, or Greenwich. There are plenty of parks dotted around the city, as well as fantastic markets, like Portobello, Camden and Spitalfields. A London Pass will help keep costs down.
Madrid is the second of three Spanish cities to be included in this top 10 European cities list. Lazy afternoons are spent enjoying tapas and cheering on street performers in the picturesque plazas; art connoisseurs are spoilt for choice with works by Picasso, Dali, Velazquez and Goya on show at the Prado; and those with an ear for good music can catch a flamenco show or head to a club and stay out till dawn.
Berlin is an enticing and colourful city. Its tumultuous past is evidenced by bomb-damaged architecture, Berlin Wall remnants and memorials to victims of the Holocaust. In the time since East and West were reunited, it has become a hotbed of cultural experimentation, attracting artists, musicians and performers from around the globe. Urban art is huge here too, and freedom of expression is encouraged. Round off a day of sightseeing in a beer garden before checking out the vibrant clubbing scene. Its nightlife is among the best in Europe.
Cobblestone streets, ancient squares and medieval buildings make Prague seem like you’ve stepped into a fairytale. Owing to its small size, narrow alleys and lack of heavy traffic, the Czech capital is a delight to explore on foot. The more unusual attractions include a wall of graffiti dedicated to John Lennon, a tower with sculptures of babies climbing up its side and a ‘dancing house’. This one definitely ranks high on the beer-o-meter too, as Czechs actually drink more of it than any other nationality.
The best of the top 10 European cities, Barcelona, has a wonderful Mediterranean climate and a recently imported white sand beach. Gaudi architecture adds a splash of colour and intrigue to many of the city’s more central streets. None is more famous than the Sagrada Familia – a huge Roman Catholic church, which is still in the process of being built. If you have just one day in Barcelona and are on a budget, free city sightseeing tours are the perfect way to get your bearings. In the warmer months, sunset cruises are also very popular.
FIND ACCOMMODATION DEALS
I’ve recently started using HotelsCombined to search for accommodation. It’s really cool because it aggregates the results of online searches from over 40 travel sites to bring you the best deals much faster than if you had to look them up to compare them separately.