Europe is a vast and wonderful place, and while that obviously isn’t a viewpoint that’s shared by everyone, it’s certainly something that’s ‘fairly’ universal. You’ve heard before about how frustrating it is for people from the USA that they can’t explore everything it has to offer as ‘freely’ as others can, and while that may sound a little bit cliché, it’s true.
Still, there’s a reason why there are so many people that try and travel there on a budget – because that’s just the smartest way to do things (oh, and because it can often cost an arm and a leg if you want to stay for a ridiculously long amount of time).
For that reason, we’ve decided to take twenty cities that tend to be fairly commonly visited, and we’ve divided them up as places you can visit for a quick getaway and others that you need to spend a little bit more time in. As is often the case, everyone has different experiences, so you may not necessarily agree with all of the entries and that’s understandable.
We’re just looking at this from an analysis standpoint, based on how much there is to do as well as how big the city itself actually is. Obviously, this would be a completely different ballgame if you were heading over to the States, but the variety available across Europe is one of the reasons why we love it so much.
So with that being said, sit back, and allow us to try and help make the planning period for your next European adventure a little bit easier.
20 QUICK: Prague, Czech Republic - Simple Yet Elegant
Prague is absolutely gorgeous and it’s important that we get that out of the way early. It represents everything that’s great and pure about the Czech Republic, and that’s the kind of thing you need from a trip that will probably only last a few days. Still, there’s a slightly edgier side to Prague, which is probably one of the reasons why so many stag and hen parties end up there.
We still love it regardless of that, but because of how easy it is to spend tonnes of money in a relatively cheap place like this, we’d lean towards recommending that you only go here for a long weekend before returning home.
19 LONGER: Madrid, Spain - The Lost Spanish Gem
Madrid serves as the slightly more sensible option when compared to Barcelona, which is almost always the alternative when people think about making the trip to Spain. That’s not a bad thing, either, because while sensible isn’t something that everyone looks for in a holiday, it’s still equally as breathtaking.
The Spanish culture is something that everyone needs to experience at some point in life, and in Madrid, you’re able to spread that out across a week or so without getting bored. That may require you to have a few chilled out days walking around the fantastic shops, but considering that’s absolutely free to do, why wouldn’t you?
18 QUICK: Hamburg, Germany - Get Your Dancing Shoes On
Forget the stereotypes you may have heard about Hamburg ‘just’ being a party city. Sure, you’re gonna have a good time if you go there with that intention and that intention alone, but don’t sit there thinking that there’s nothing for you to do aside from that.
Still, from the gardens to the architecture to the museums, there’s a lot of good stuff to be found in and around the German city of Hamburg. Oh, and if you’re feeling a little bit ‘rebellious’ go and take a walk on the road along the prison, because you can often see the inmates sitting in the window of their cells. It sounds bizarre, but it’s an actual thing.
17 LONGER: Paris, France - Romance Awaits
Ah, the romance capital of the world. That initially sounds like a bit of a “yeah, okay, sure” kind of statement, but we believe in it nine times out of ten. Paris isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and that’s understandable, especially due to some security concerns, but if you can look past that then there’s a whole city full of potential waiting to be uncovered.
A week is a great amount of time to spend there, if not longer, mainly because there’s so much to do in the surrounding regions as well as the city itself. From day trips on your own to activities alongside your partner or friends, the French capital is always buzzing.
16 QUICK: Birmingham, England - What It Says On The Tin
In the grand scheme of English cities, Birmingham tends to either be forgotten or given a pretty bad reputation in comparison to those around it. That’s a shame, because at the heart of it, Brum is full of culture, great shopping, and a blossoming city centre that has been recognised as being both progressive and exciting.
Still, you could probably visit most of the ‘hot spots’ in a day or two, and that’s never a bad thing. If you’re visiting the UK as a whole then we’d definitely recommend popping into Birmingham to have a look around the Bullring and the surrounding areas, if only to dispel some of the myths you’ve probably heard.
15 LONGER: Lisbon, Portugal - Experience Portugal
Great weather, great people (for the most part) and all of the best bits from a beach holiday. What’s not to love? Lisbon can easily keep you occupied for a good few weeks at the very least, if you’re in need of something a little bit different that can help you escape from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.
You’ll have to stay vigilant at all times as you’ve probably heard, courtesy of those who will attempt to nab things from your pockets as you walk past, but when you spend a few days in the city you’ll start to realise that it’s fairly easy to avoid the negatives while still focusing on the positives.
14 QUICK: Dublin, Ireland - Land Of The Guinness
Sure, Dublin is a little bit pricey, but don’t you dare try and tell us that you wouldn’t give your left leg to see what St Patrick’s Day is like over there. The sea of green makes for quite the spectacle, and we honestly believe that it’s something everyone needs to get the chance to enjoy at one point or another during their lifetime.
The Guinness factory is arguably the main tourist attraction over there, but there’s still plenty of things to do that can keep you occupied. In fact, we’re so excited just typing about this that we may jump online and see what offers we can get right this second.
No, we aren’t kidding.
13 LONGER: London, England - London Is Calling
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with going somewhere that millions of others visit every single year, because if you weren’t able to do that, then there would be very few places left for you to actually go. London isn’t perfect but it’s a lot of fun, whether you’re on your own or chilling with your family and friends.
You’ve got all the tourist spots and the underground in one corner, and in the other, there are the more ‘unknown’ areas that are really fun to explore both during the day and at night. It’s important that you don’t try and cram it all into a few days, too, because spreading it out ensures that you aren’t quite as exhausted.
12 QUICK: Krakow, Poland - Food, Food, Food
We were really tempted to just make a top twenty list of Polish cities, but on second thought, it feels like a bit of diversity is probably the smart way to go.
With that being said we’d still like to throw Krakow out there as the official representative of Poland on this list, mainly because of how much there is to do there. From the buildings to the Christmas markets, this is a city that you can visit all year round, and we think that’s one of the biggest and best signs of an impressive destination.
There are some noteworthy historical sites to visit from the war, too, but that isn’t going to be something that everyone feels comfortable with doing.
11 LONGER: Berlin, Germany - Chaos, Chaos, Chaos
Do you want to go clubbing underground? Berlin is the place for you. Do you want to take a trip through one of the most historically significant cities in the world? Berlin is the place for you. Are you dying to sample some authentic German sausages? Berlin is, well, you get the picture.
The city itself is absolutely massive which isn’t exactly something that appeals to everyone, but if you’re up for doing some investigating across the many different faces of Berlin, then this could be a fun trip idea for you. If not, Currywurst is worth the trip by itself.
10 QUICK: Milan, Italy - Not Much To See Here
Milan is a really great place for you to visit if you’re into your fashion, even if it doesn’t quite compare to the likes of Paris and New York City. You’ll find yourself having a whole new perspective on Italian culture when you go, too, because in our mind, things aren’t quite as ‘proper’ and traditionally nice over there.
That’s not to say you can’t have a good time over the course of a long weekend, but anything more than that would likely leave you feeling like there’s a lot to be desired. It’s not all doom and gloom, but we’d argue that this is one of the few cities where the weather can seriously impact whether or not you have a nice experience.
9 LONGER: Zurich, Switzerland - Absolutely Stunning
The Swiss may put slightly higher price tags on things than most of us are used to (which can be incredibly annoying), but there’s a reason why they do that. Still, in a lot of cities across the nation, there isn’t all that much to see and do, which thankfully isn’t the case whatsoever with Zurich.
We’ve rambled on about it in the past but it needs to be repeated every so often, as Lake Zurich alone is more than enough to sway most people to make the trip. If you get yourself some food and a bottle of water, you could sit by the lake and watch the world go by for days at a time. It’s really therapeutic, and you wouldn’t even be scratching the surface of everything else on offer.
8 QUICK: Ljubljana, Slovenia - Dramatically Underrated
We’ve arrived at a slightly more unconventional selection in the form of Ljubljana, located in Slovenia. Most people are only really aware of the country due to their exploits in international football, and if that’s the case, you’re doing a massive disservice to the nation because it has so much more to offer the world.
The best part about the city is that it’s fairly small, meaning you could enjoy everything on offer in a day or two without too many issues. That’s a really good position to be in especially if you’re combining it with a few other bigger cities, which is fairly common with Ljubljana.
7 LONGER: Athens, Greece - Historic Haven
When most people consider heading to Greece they tend to think about the Greek islands more so than anything else, because they’re really popular for beach holidays and things of that nature. Alas, the country itself represents so much more than that, with the perfect example being Athens.
Just take a minute to think about everything that’s gone down there throughout the history of the human race. It’s pretty staggering and while the city may be struggling with the current financial situation that they’re involved in, that doesn’t make it any less spectacular. If you want to really learn how to appreciate everything life has to offer, then this is a great place to start.
6 QUICK: Bucharest, Romania - Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover
We can wholeheartedly and fully appreciate the jokes associated with Romania as a nation, mainly due to the Dracula links that have been around for decades now, but as the title suggests, we’d encourage you to avoid judging this book by its cover.
Eastern Europe is quite ‘mysterious’ in comparison to the other regions throughout the continent, but Bucharest is well worth your time. It’s really interesting to look at what life is like over there given how many stereotypes you hear on a day to day basis, and what’s even better is sampling some of their fantastic culinary delights.
5 LONGER: Barcelona, Spain - Lives Up To The Hype
Barcelona, as we’ve alluded to earlier on in this piece, is a little bit more ‘lively’ and energetic than Madrid in terms of Spanish cities. On top of that, though, you’re going to get a crash course in fantastic architecture from the city centre all the way through to the outer edges of the city.
The best part about Barca is that there’s no one right way to explore it, and while that’s true of most cities, there’s just a special kind of vibe that we get with this place. That might just be because the Nou Camp is one of the most impressive stadiums we’ve ever seen across any and all kinds of sport, but still.
4 QUICK: Tallinn, Estonia - Small Yet Special
There are certain cities that look and feel like they’ve been painted or carved out to look exactly how one person would think a perfect city would be – and Tallinn falls into that category.
It’s not particularly well known because Estonia isn’t your traditional tourist destination, but it’s still a lot of fun. We’d argue that it’s even better to visit in the winter time than the summer, too, because there’s nothing better than feeling like you’ve genuinely been transported to the North Pole during the run-up to Christmas.
In all seriousness, though, the Estonians know how to make you feel at home.
3 LONGER: Moscow, Russia - Big And Bold
If you’re invested in the idea of travelling across Russia one day, then first of all we’d say you're pretty brave, and second of all, you should probably make Moscow your ‘end goal’ in order to appreciate just how different it is to the rest of the country (and the world, to be perfectly honest).
Moscow is incredibly large and because the population of Russia doesn’t really match up to the size, you won’t be taken aback with other tourists. Because of that you’re able to take your time and really soak in the sights and sounds, and as the World Cup proved, it’s not as bad as the media would lead you to believe.
2 QUICK: Budapest, Hungary - Spa Central
It’s beautiful, it’s cheap and it’s full of things to do, to the point where you’ll be stunned at the price of everything after just a few hours of exploring. We’ve previously thought that you may need a week or so in order to check it all out, but on reflection, it feels like something that we should reconsider.
This is the personification of a place that justifies the frustration of American travellers because it seems as if there should be a catch behind coming here, but there really isn’t.
Even if you spend your whole weekend in the spas you could always come back for another weekend, because in our mind, Budapest works well when you serve it out in doses instead of all in one go.
1 LONGER: Istanbul, Turkey - On The Rise
Istanbul is absolutely huge and even that would probably be an understatement. There are certain areas that you probably wouldn’t feel too comfortable visiting based on what you’ve heard and seen in the media, but trust us when we say that, on average, it’s probably safer than most cities.
The Turks are used to dwindling tourism numbers because of the dreaded ‘power’ of the media and the internet, but they really shouldn’t have to deal with that. Still, it makes your visit a little bit less crowded, and with the many top hotels and Airbnbs on offer to all, we can guarantee that you’ll have a nice and relaxing stay.
Moral of the story: don’t believe the hype, good or bad. Make your own determination.