Europe is a continent steeped in history and culture. There are 51 different countries either fully or partly located in Europe, 26 of which form the Schengen Area. Between these different nations, there is an abundance of attractions for every kind of tourist.
Visitors can relax on the sunny beaches of the Mediterranean or climb the heights of the snowy Alps; explore the museums of Paris or take a selfie in front of Big Ben; tuck into genuine Italian pizza or get their Guinness straight from the source at St James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin.
Learn more in this handy guide to the variety of attractions Europe has to offer.
Sightseeing: what are the top tourist attractions in Europe?
Europe is full of incredible landmarks for sightseers and admirers of architecture. Ancient Roman and Greek ruins, medieval castles, Gothic cathedrals, and works of structural art make up a rich tapestry of the many different cultures of Europe.
Visitors may want to pull out a selfie stick and take the perfect snapshot of their trip in front of one of the following European landmarks:
- The Eiffel Tower (Paris, France)
- The Colosseum (Rome, Italy)
- Tower Bridge (London, UK)
- La Sagrada Familia (Barcelona, Spain)
- Hagia Sophia (Istanbul, Turkey)
- The Acropolis/the Parthenon (Athens, Greece)
- Brandenburg Gate (Berlin, Germany)
- The Alhambra (Granada, Spain)
- Prague Castle (Prague, Czech Republic)
- Mont Saint-Michel Abbey (Normandy, France)
For those looking to capture the beauty of nature, the landscape across Europe can vary from scenic lakes to dramatic cliffs and frosty mountain peaks. Here are some of the most impressive natural wonders the continent has to offer:
- The Cliffs of Moher (County Clare, Ireland)
- The Matterhorn (Switzerland/Italy)
- The Fjords (Norway)
- The Lake District (Northern England, UK)
- Black Forest (Southwest Germany)
- Santorini (Greece)
- Blue Lagoon (Comino Island, Malta)
- Ice caves (Iceland)
- As Catedrais Beach (Galicia, Spain)
- Chamonix (French Alps)
The best museums and galleries in Europe
Europe has historically been a hub of art, from the old Rennaissance masters like Da Vinci and Michelangelo to the work of the impressionists. There are many famous and prominent art museums and galleries to visit in different European countries.
There are a variety of other museums to be found. Some offer interesting insight into different episodes of European histories, such as the Viking era. Others are worth visiting for being unusual, like Warsaw’s Neon Museum — a truly unique place to visit in Europe. Then there are those such as the Louvre and the British Museum that house exhibits from every era and every part of the globe.
Some of the most famous and interesting museums Europe has to offer include:
- The Louvre (Paris, France)
- The Musée d’Orsay (Paris, France)
- The British Museum (London, UK)
- The Anne Frank House (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
- Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
- Guggenheim (Bilbao, Spain)
- Uffizi Gallery (Florence, Italy)
- The Vatican Museums (Vatican City)
- Neon Museum (Warsaw, Poland)
- Viking Ship Museum (Roskilde, Denmark)
Culinary tourism in Europe
While some people travel to see the sights, others experience the culture gastronomically. Food and drink are key parts of any holiday and eating in Europe can mean a great variety of options.
Several major European cities, including London, Paris, and Rome now have food tours, which can show culinary tourists the best food these locations have to offer.
Where to try the best food in Europe
It is no coincidence that the phrase “haute cuisine” is used around the world. France has an international reputation for fine dining. Paris plays host to many Michelin-starred restaurants, where tourists can enjoy the best of French cuisine.
Travellers on a tighter budget can find more affordable options wherever they look, whether it is sampling some local German sausage in Berlin or tucking into a hearty portion of fish and chips in Manchester. Italian food may be popular across the globe, but it rarely compares to an authentic oven-baked pizza in Naples.
European tourism: beer, wine and whisky
In terms of drink, there are various attractions for tourists around Europe. The rolling plateau of La Rioja, Spain is covered in vineyards, many of which can be visited and the wine sampled.
Meanwhile, a visit to Dublin, Ireland is not complete without a trip to the St James’s Gate Brewery, the birthplace of Guinness.
Finally, for whisky-drinkers, there is no better place than the Scottish island of Islay. This picturesque member of the Inner Hebrides is rich in nature and beauty but is most famous for its 9 active Scotch distilleries.
Which countries can you ski in Europe?
Skiing is a popular reason for tourism in Europe. In fact, Europe contains around ⅔ of the world’s skiable areas.
There are ski resorts throughout the Alps in countries such as France, Switzerland, Italy, and Austria. The Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain and the Scottish Highlands are other popular ski destinations.
Which European country should I visit?
The best place to visit depends on the type of holiday the traveller wants.
Visitors who want to see famous landmarks and architecture and visit museums may prefer to visit major cities. Travellers who want an active experience may opt for skiing in the mountains during the winter months or hiking during the rest of the year.
For people who prefer relaxing holidays in the sun, the best places to visit in Europe in summer tend to be placed around the Mediterranean. Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Malta are all known for their stunning beaches.
For travellers who like to see various places at a tranquil pace, there are also cruises around various parts of Europe including:
- The Mediterranean
- The British Islands
- The River Danube
It may also depend on whether the traveller plans to visit more than one country. The 26 Schengen countries can be visited with the same documentation, making it convenient to travel between them on the same trip.
The required documentation is currently the Schengen Visa for most nationalities, while citizens of certain countries can visit the Schengen Area visa-free for short stays until 2020. The ETIAS Visa Waiver is currently under development and is scheduled to be available for travellers from eligible countries in 2022. The ETIAS for Europe aims to improve security while facilitating travel to Schengen countries. Please note that it is not a visa, ETIAS is an electronic travel authorisation that screens foreign visitors before they head to the Schengen Area.
The ETIAS application process will be done online, avoiding the need to visit an embassy.
European countries outside the Schengen Area may require the visitor to obtain a separate visa. You should check the documentation you will need for all countries you plan to visit before booking your trip.