Between a myriad of stunning landscapes and twice as many historically-significant sites, it goes without saying that Europe isn’t the kind of place you only visit once—one trip isn’t going to cut it. We won’t lie and say it was easy whittling the list down to just eight places down from the well over 50 we initially jotted down! Our selection embodies Europe’s vast and diverse heritage and features a mix of natural and man-made splendours that simply must be seen in a lifetime and that should be present on every commendable bucket list. Pick one or pick them all—you can’t go wrong.
Most primitive European civilisations revolved around all-almighty Rome for thousands of years as Christianity grew increasingly prevalent throughout the continent; it’s only natural, then, to see Rome crowning this inventory of must-see Europe attractions. With its incalculable chapels and apricot-coloured piazzas —not forgetting key attractions like the Colosseum and the Foro Romano, of course— Rome truly is a delight for the senses. Plus, the Italian rail network is quite extensive and makes it easy for time-strapped travellers to hop on day trips to artsy Florence, dreamy Venice, wino Tuscany and foodie Bologna.
2. Swiss Alps
The picture begs to be painted: a cosy Swiss chalet with a warm fire burning, fragrant cheese fondue with masses of bread on the table, and, out the window, a panorama like no other, encompassing some of Europe’s highest and most dramatic peaks. Switzerland is a must-see destination for several reasons but breathing in the fresh air from atop Jungfrau or Pilatus, for example, is simply unparalleled. Pair that with quaint alpine villages like Zermatt, Lucerne, and Appenzell, and any resistance simply becomes futile.
Arguably, every single one of the 220 islands in the Greek Cyclades is worth a visit for one reason or another; but unless you’ve got a lifetime of travel ahead of you and own a private yacht, chances are you’ll only be able to visit a handful during your upcoming trip. Our favourite spots are Santorini’s unmatched sweeping vistas, the bougainvillea-dotted web that is the old town of Mykonos and its Venice-like waterfront, Delos, which is one of the most significant archaeological sites not just in the Cyclades but in all of Greece and, lastly, the underrated, blossoming, untouched island that encompasses everything that makes Greece so enticing, Naxos.
These prolonged arms of the seas, formed by immense inland glaciers thousands of years ago, are now Scandinavia’s most iconic landmarks; indeed, the fjords of western Norway, with the most popular ones being Sognefjord, Nærøyfjord, Lysefjord, and Geirangerfjord, are not top-selling postcards for no reason. As the glaciers retreated, they left almost vertical stony mountainsides behind, which are now dotted with Nordic red fishing huts and seemingly eternal waterfalls.
Although France as a whole has enough noteworthy attractions to keep anyone busy as a bee for an entire lifetime (even we are still chipping at our France bucket list), Provence is definitely one of the most scenic portions of the country. We felt the strong market culture, the storybook villages of Cassis, Grasse and Gordes, to name a few, as well as the obviously stunning coastline. It doesn’t hurt that local rosé wine is ubiquitous, either.
The tranquil southern Spanish autonomous region is the kind of place where it’s possible to ski on the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains and swim in the Mediterranean Sea on the same day, thanks to the diverse ecosystems and relatively short driving distances. It’s also home to the complex Moorish heritage, which mingles flawlessly with the idyllic beaches and the mouth-watering tapas – and, not to mention, surprisingly reasonable costs. Some of the most popular highlights include the dramatic aqueduct of Ronda, Seville’s sun-kissed character and beauty (it is, after all, the setting of illustrious Carmen opera), the narrow and whitewashed streets of Cordoba’s Jeduria quarter, as well as the largest Islamic palace in Spain, the Alhambra.
Whether you want to explore England to have cream tea at every occasion or to hop on a massive nationwide pub crawl, there is no such thing as being disappointed in these parts — particularly not when locals are not just helpful but incredibly kind and call everyone “love”. Between the dramatic coastline of Cornwall, which dates back to the Jurassic Age, the quaint villages of the Cotswolds, the lavish estates of Highclere Castle (ever heard of a show called Downton Abbey?) or Leeds Castle, as well as the picture-ready hamlets of Rye, Castle Combe, and Whitstable… Yes, England really knows how to impress. Better keep your camera handy.
Often dubbed the Wild Atlantic Way, this truly where land and sea collide in the most spectacularly possible way. Natural splendours are ubiquitous and truly jaw-dropping all the way from Kinsale to the Inishowen Peninsula; here, visitors will find some of Europe’s highest sea cliffs at Sliabh Liag, the childhood town of the illustrious Irish poet William Butler Yeats, the monastic outpost and UNESCO World Heritage site of Skellig Michael, and even the golden beaches of Fanad Head. Surely you’ll manage to fit a couple of Guinness and whiskies in there as well?