0EU MapMust See Europe

There are lots of “must see” lists for Europe, but they all seem to follow one or another standard formula: either selling holiday links, or a blogger picking out their favourites in their own country.  Many of the longer lists target US readers and include lots of locations in the UK, which those of us in the UK can visit at a weekend without the time or expense of a more significant break.  Below I will try to bring together a healthy list of the places I’ve loved and still want to see in Europe, excluding the British Isles.


If you are planning a journey to visit several of the following places you might find a map of them useful.

Amalfi_CoastAmalfi Coast, Italy

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What’s it all about
A UNESCO world heritage site, the Amalfi Coast is an area of natural beauty on the Mediterranean coast of Italy with stunning views and wonderful food.

See and do
Relax on the coast, visit the coastal towns of Positano, Amalfi, Scala and Ravello, take a trip across to the nearby Island of Capri the home of Roman emperor Tiberius, visit the better parts of Naples for an unbeatable pizza, climb the active volcano Vesuvius, and visit the ruins of the Roman towns it destroyed Pompeii & Herculaneum.

Cuisine
Nearby Naples is the home of pizza, with the fresh ingredients enriched by the good weather and volcanic soils.  Seafood and pasta are also local specialities.  Italy more generally is also renowned for ice cream.

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Italian wines and prosecco are the order of the day, don’t be fooled by the cheap prosecco often found in the UK as the Italians clearly keep the best for themselves.  If you fancy something stronger try the local lemon-based liqueurs, e.g. limoncello.

When to go
As with much of Europe the weather is at it’s best in the summer months, but the crowds are biggest too.  Most guides recommend springtime, around May, as the best possible time to visit, but be warned the sea will be cold at this time.  If you like to swim and aren’t especially hardy then September may be the time for you.  Winter is also worth considering as the weather is generally pleasant with warm temperatures and reasonably low rainfall.

AmiensAmiens, France

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What’s it all about
The capital of the Somme region of France, home to one of the largest cathedrals in the world, and not too far from Paris.  One of Lonely Planet’s hidden gems of Europe.

See and do
The 13th century cathedral is a world heritage site, and there are numerous historical sites, ranging from the world wars back to pre-Roman times.  In December there is a large Christmas market.

Cuisine
France is of course known for it’s cuisine, and Amiens is no different.  The area specialises in sweets, for example the macaroon which has been made here for over 5 centuries.  Duck pate is another local speciality.

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Wine is without a doubt the drink in France, and every area has it’s own local favourites.  If you’re feeling flush then you can always splash out on some Champagne or regional sparkling equivalent.

When to go
As a northern European city, Amiens has the best weather in the summer months, and doesn’t tend to be too over-crowded even in peak season.  Don’t forget the December winter markets as an alternative time to visit

AmsterdamAmsterdam, The Netherlands

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What’s it all about
A city of canals, history, and liberal-minded people, famed for it’s red light district, cannabis cafes, and the work of painter Vincent van Gogh.

See and do
Visit the home of Anne Frank, the Rijksmuseum, and the Van Gogh museum.  Take a trip along the canals, and a stroll through the red light district.  Beer aficionados can visit the Heineken experience.

Cuisine
Amsterdam has a wonderfully rich range of cuisines from around the world.  As a consequence, local specialities aren’t as prominent as in some destinations but look for herring sandwiches sold on the street, and the range of pastries on offer.

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Amsterdam is the home of Heineken so lager is the main contender for a local drink.  Heineken also make some dark beers which are well worth a try.  If you’d like something a little stronger try Jenever which is flavoured with juniper berries and is closely related to gin.

When to go
The weather is of course best in summer, but summer (especially July and August) tend to be over-crowded so the best time to go is May or September.

AnnecyAnnecy, France

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What’s it all about
Attractive town in the foothills of the French Alps, with cobbled streets, canals, and colourful houses.  The historic home of the counts of Geneva.

See and do
Annecy is a town in which to relax and enjoy the scenery and good company and as such doesn’t have the big ticket attractions that major cities like Paris have to offer.  Stroll along the canals, visit cafes and shops, and appreciate the architecture.  Visit the lake and the mountains for unspoiled outdoors.

Cuisine
Like everywhere in France Annecy is proud of it’s cuisine, which is known as Haute Savoie.  Try the Fondue, Tartiflette, and Racletteall of which are rich and involve significant quantities of local cheese.

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The region is particularly known for white wines, and there are also excellent reds and craft beers available.

When to go
Many people visit Annecy in winter thanks to the proximity of the Alps.  The south of France has reasonable weather year round with the summer months warmest but also somewhat rainy.  Springtime offers the best compromise of warm and dry weather.

ArdennesArdennes, Belgium

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What’s it all about
The big beautiful outdoors with meandering rivers, rolling hills, pretty villages, and large forests which is also full of history from both world wars.

See and do
The Ardennes are mostly visited by people wanting to spend time in the great outdoors with forests, rivers, and hills as well as the Ardenne mountain range.  There are also lots of historical sites from the world wars, in particular the battle of the bulge from the second world war.  The town of Bastogne famously featured in Band of Brothers.  The carnivals in Stavelot, Malmedy and Eupen are rightly famed.

Cuisine
Game is the major local speciality along with other meats like venison, wild boar and smoked hams.  The region is also famed for it’s paté.

Liquid refreshment
Belgium is famed for it’s Trappist beers, those from Chimay and Orval are made in the region, with Rochefort just north of the regions boundary.  The French part of the Ardennes is in the Champagne region which speaks for itself.

When to go
Spring and summer have the best weather and attractive flora.  The mountains offer opportunities for skiing in winter.

ArezzoArezzo, Italy

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What’s it all about
A smaller quieter alternative to Florence with great food, history and culture.

See and do
Enjoy traditional Tuscan food, visit the historic churches and piazzas and relax in the fresh air of outdoors.  Enjoy the museums and art galleries, or get out on hiking trips in the surrounding countryside.  Day trips to Florence are entirely possible, and longer outings to Pisa or even the Cinque Terre could be done at a stretch.

Cuisine
Tuscan cuisine is some of the best in the world, with large rare steaks being a particular speciality.  Breads and anything with olive oil is highly recommended, and soups are more popular than pastas.  Also famed is a meat stew called scottiglia

Liquid refreshment
Chianti is one of best known local types of wine, but there are lots of other excellent varieties on offer.

When to go
As with so many other destinations the weather is best in the summer months.  Arezzo isn’t too crowded at these times, but if you are planning to make day trips to busier places like Florence you may want to consider May and September to beat the crowds.

AthensAthens, Greece

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What’s it all about
The capital of Greece the birthplace of western civilisation.  Once heavily polluted, Athens is now a pleasant outdoor city with numerous ancient monuments, wonderful food and reliably glorious weather.

See and do
Visit the famous monuments, relax in street-side cafes with fresh food, explore the museums and take boat trips to nearby islands from Piraeus.  For a break from the history take a hike up Mt Lycabettus or see a show at the ancient outdoor Odeon of Herodes Atticus.

Cuisine
Greek food is some of the best in the world, especially if you prefer fresh and simple food to complex rich more commonly associated with places like France.  If you can find a cafe that serves mezze with drinks you can get a range of great food effectively for free.  Also try the grilled meats and classics like moussaka, greek salad, pies and stuffed vegetables.

Liquid refreshment
It’s hard to beat a cold beer in the height of summer, but there are a good range of great local drinks.  For wine drinkers there are a range of local options as well as the unique retsina.  The locals can also be found drinking the aniseed-flavoured ouzo, and tsikoudia which is also often called raki which is similar to Italian grappa.  The Greeks also produce metaxa which is a good brandy.

When to go
As a southern European city Athens has good weather for the majority of the year.  The biggest crowds come in July and August, even though the heat is often so intense that it is more suited to beach time than exploring monuments.  May and October offer an ideal balance.

BarcelonaBarcelona, Spain

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What’s it all about
One of the top “must visit” places on any list for Europe, Barcelona is a vibrant city with a great mix of bars, restaurants and architecture.

See and do
Visit the enormous Nou Camp football stadium, take a stroll down the famed Las Ramblas, and explore the works of Gaudi including the Sagrada Familia.

Cuisine
As the capital of Catalonia, Barcelona is a major home to Catalonian food which is based on fresh local vegetables similar to other western Mediterranean cuisines.  Seafood and fish dishes make up a majority of the local specialities.

Liquid refreshment
Beer is the main drink in Barcelona, although there are good local red wines which are also popular.  Sangria is not a particular speciality of Barcelona, but as in all Spain it is widely available.  For something a little stronger, try the local brandy called mascaró or a green apple liqueur called manzana verde.

When to go
Barcelona can be good to visit year round although the chance of rain in the winters months is significant.  The best time for warmth without huge crowds is May or June.  Alternatively try mid September which is also dry and not too busy.

BelgradeBelgrade, Serbia

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What’s it all about
Ground zero for some of the most seismic events in European history, Belgrade has been involved in the wax and wane of every major empire since the Romans.  Despite a good number of attractions, limitless history, and good weather, Belgrade isn’t flooded by tourists.

See and do
Visit the imposing Roman built Kalemegdan fortress, churches and chapels, sail on the mighty Danube, visit the museums and explore the rich history of the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Serbian and Austro-Hungarian empires.

Cuisine
Grilled meats and pastries are popular in Serbia with a mix of eastern and western foods.  Try the sausage-based cevapi, and gibanica which is a type of cheese-pie made with filo pastry.

Liquid refreshment
Beer is probably the most popular drink in Serbia, but there is not a rich history of brewing so most local beers are relatively recent and small scale.  These are well worth trying.  The other contender for top drink in Serbia is Rakiya which is a type of fruit brandy.  The popular balkan drink slivovitz is also popular in Serbia.

When to go
Serbia currently is not a huge draw for tourists so you can visit year round without worryng about crowds.  Whilst the weather is reasonably mild in winter, the best time to visit is from May to October.

BeratBerat, Albania

Hidden gem scale

What’s it all about
Built on the side of a hill overlooking the river Osum Berat is an 2400 year old Albanian town on the UNESCO world heritage list.

See and do
Experience the history of the ancient sites, try the wines from one of the local wineries, and enjoy the relaxed clean outdoor scenery

Cuisine
Albanian cuisine is still emerging from the communist period and the local food is still heavily influenced by neighbours such as Greece.  The most common local meat dishes are lamb, and pies are also popular.  Vegetables are usually locally grown and fresh.

Liquid refreshment
Try the wine that is local to the region, or if you’re in need of something stronger then the local Raki is popular with the locals.

When to go
.Albania is still mostly undiscovered by tourists and as such any time can be a good time to go.  The hottest driest weather is in mid summer, but if you really prefer to avoid any crowds then June is better than July or August.

BergenBergen, Norway

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BerlinBerlin, Germany

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BrasovBrasov, Romania

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BucharestBucharest, Romania

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BudapestBudapest, Hungary

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BucovinaBucovina, Romania

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CappadociaCappadocia, Turkey

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CarnacCarnac, France

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Cesky_KrumlovČeský Krumlov, Czech Republic

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Cinque_TerreCinque Terre, Italy

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CoimbraCoimbra, Portugal

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ColmarColmar, France

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CologneCologne, Germany

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CopenhagenCopenhagen, Denmark

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CorfuCorfu, Greece

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Cote_d_AzurCôte d’Azur, France

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CreteCrete, Greece

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Danube_deltaDanube Delta, Romania

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DelphiDelphi, Greece

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DijonDijon, France

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DubrovnikDubrovnik, Croatia

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FlandersFlanders, Belgium

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FlorenceFlorence, Italy

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FontainebleauFontainebleau, France

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HallstattHallstatt, Austria

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HelsinkiHelsinki, Finland

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HvarHvar, Croatia

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IstanbulIstanbul, Turkey

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BledJulian Alps, Slovenia

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Kotor, Montenegro

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Krakow, Poland

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La_Roque_GageacLa Roque-Gageac, France

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LecceLecce, Italy

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LisseLisse, Netherlands

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LofotenLofoten, Norway

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LjubljanaLjubljana, Slovenia

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LuxembourgLuxembourg City, Luxembourg

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LvivLviv, Ukraine

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MadridMadrid, Spain

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MaltaMalta

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Marianske_LazneMariánské Lázně, Czech Republic

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MeteoraMeteora, Greece

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MostarMostar, Bosnia

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MunichMunich, Germany

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OdenseOdense, Denmark

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OlomoucOlomouc, Czech Republic

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OsloOslo, Norway

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ParisParis, France

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PraguePrague, Czech Republic

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Rhine_ValleyRhine Valley, Germany

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RigaRiga, Latvia

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RocamadourRocamadour, France

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RomeRome, Italy

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RondaRonda, Spain

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Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Sieberstor(links) und Koboltor (rechts)Rothenburg, Germany

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RovinjRovinj, Croatia

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SamosSamos, Greece

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San_MarinoSan Marino

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SantoriniSantorini, Greece

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SarajevoSarajevo, Bosnia

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SevilleSeville, Spain

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SintraSintra, Portugal

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SkopjeSkopje, F.Y.R.O. Macedonia

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SofiaSofia, Bulgaria

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Sveti_StefanSveti Stefan, Montenegro

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TallinnTallinn, Estonia

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TransylvaniaTransylvania, Romania

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TriesteTrieste, Italy

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ViennaVienna, Austria

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