Europe – A continent full of different cultures, languages and architectural features. With so many stunning locations, it can be hard to choose one of them. But what do other people think? – Which are the most popular cities in Europe?
To answer this question we collected the top 15 most popular city breaks in Europe with some surprising results.
What figures are used to determine the top 15 most visited European cities?
This listing is created regarding the top 100 most visited cities in the world. The list includes the 15 most visited European cities in the #100 list. The Top 100 was created by Mastercard for the 2016 Mastercard Global Destinations City Index. Included are all visitors who have spent at least one night in the city.
What to find out in this post
- 1 The Top 15 Most Popular Cities in Europe
- 2 15 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
- 3 14 Lisbon, Portugal
- 4 13 Berlin, Germany
- 5 12 Dublin, Ireland
- 6 11 Munich, Germany
- 7 10 Madrid, Spain
- 8 9 Prague, Czech Republic
- 9 8 Vienna, Austria
- 10 7 Rome, Italy
- 11 6 Milan, Italy
- 12 5 Amsterdam, Netherlands
- 13 4 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
- 14 3 Istanbul, Turkey
- 15 2 Paris, France
- 16 1 London, United Kingdom
- 17 How to get around Europe
The Top 15 Most Popular Cities in Europe
15 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Frankfurt am Main ranks 38th in the overall ranking of the world’s most popular cities. Frankfurt is especially well-visited during one of its worldwide famous faires.
Frankfurt am Main is located in the state of Hesse and is considered the fifth largest city in Germany. The city has been one of the most important cities in Germany since the Middle Ages. Today, the European Central Bank and a huge banking district are located here. Incidentally, the skyscrapers here are also the reason why the city is often called Mainhatten. In this area, you can also find the popular shopping opportunities of the city.
But not only modern buildings make Frankfurt such a unique city, but also the old town is definitely worth a visit. Particularly impressive is der Römer. This medieval building complex of patrician houses is now used as a town hall. For all fans of German literature, the Goethe-Haus is an absolute must-see. In the former residence of this outstanding German poet, there is a museum dedicated to Goethe’s life and works.
14 Lisbon, Portugal
Lisbon, also known in Portuguese as Lisboa, is not only the most visited and the largest but also the capital of Portugal. Many sights of this pastel-colored city can easily be explored on foot. But also the tram of Lisbon is a real highlight. Particularly popular is the tram line 28, which leads you to many attractions of the city.
Another attraction that you shouldn’t miss during your trip to Lisbon is the Castelo de São Jorge. This is an ancient fortress with Moorish roots. From here you have an incredible view over the beautiful old town to the famous suspension bridge Ponte 25 de Abril.
In addition to other attractions, I have an extremely positive memory about the Barrio Alto. Here you can discover the unique nightlife of the city, in addition to a great viewpoint. At every corner of the trendy district, the smells of delicious Portuguese cuisine or small bars invite you to stay around. But even during the daytime, this Bairro is worth a visit, as there is great street art to discover all over the area.
13 Berlin, Germany
Another German city that belongs to the most visited cities in Europe. In the World Ranking Berlin even manages to rank on #26. However, the popularity of Berlin is not a big surprise for anyone who has visited the German capital before. A city full of history and creativity cannot be found everywhere. In addition to the Brandenburg Gate, which is depicted on many of the German Euro coins, the Museumsinsel (Museum Island) is one of the most visited attractions worldwide. Museum Island is considered one of the best museum complexes in the world and is even recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Above all, the impressive Pergamon museum, which, among other interesting exhibits, is home to the impressive Pergamon Altar. (author’s note: At the moment the Pergamon Altar cannot be visited due to construction work: as in May 2019)
For visitors in Berlin a visit to the remains of the wall, which has divided the Western and Eastern part of Berlin for many years, is an absolute must-do. Particularly noteworthy is the graffiti Fraternal Kiss, which is an important part of the East Side Gallery, but also the history of Berlin.
Also those interested in politics will find many interesting spots to see in Berlin. A visit to the Reichstag should also be on your list. And the best? There is no admission fee. You only need to register before you go.
12 Dublin, Ireland
Of course, you can also find the Irish capital among the top 15 most popular cities in Europe. With its Irish pub charm and delicious beers, Dublin simply captivates everyone.
What is definitely not to be missed on your Dublin itinerary is a visit to the world famous temple bar. Enjoy the exuberant atmosphere as you sip a chilled Strongbow or Guinness. Talking about Guinness – in Dublin, of course, you can also visit the Guinness Storehouse, which every beer fan will absolutely love. Another attraction not only for history lovers is the Dublin Castle, which is located in the old town and therefore very easy to reach on foot.
Later, stop by the famous Cathedrals: St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral and walk the Ha’penny Bridge, which crosses the Liffey River. If you are looking for a bit of relaxation then you should definitely visit the beautiful Phoenix Park afterward.
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11 Munich, Germany
Which brings us to the next German city. Munich just barely misses the top 10 of the most visited cities in Europe. In the global ranking, Munich, or München how it’s called in German, even reaches the 23rd place of the most popular cities in the world.
But not only in October during the Oktoberfest, which is probably known throughout the world, the Bavarian capital is worth a visit. Munich is an ideal destination, especially for gourmets and foodies, because Bavarian cuisine has so many delicacies to offer. In addition, you should definitely plan a walk on the Viktualienmarkt, where you can find some yummy tidbits. Afterward, make sure to enjoy a cold beer in the Hofbräuhaus.
Also, Munich’s architecture has a lot to offer. A must-see is the neo-Gothic New Town Hall, which is located on the Marienplatz. Over the years, it has become the most important landmark of the city. Try to visit the place during the carillon, where songs and stories from 16th century Munich are displayed.
10 Madrid, Spain
With about 5,260,000 visitors yearly, Madrid is the 10th most visited city in Europe, making it the first Spanish city on this list. As the capital of Spain and the seat of the royal family, Madrid is definitely one of the most important and most popular cities in Spain.
Madrid is also a very green city, full of beautiful parks. The most famous is the Retiro Park. But culture also plays a decisive role in Madrid. So you will be able to visit some important art museums, such as the Prado or the Museo Reina Sophia, but also the National Archaeological Museum.
Fans of the Spanish royal family shouldn’t miss the Palacio Real. This palace was built in Baroque style and is still impressive up to today. Finally, you should have seen the place Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun). There you will also find the statue of the coat of arms of the city.
To get familiar with the nightlife of Madrid, the district of La Latina is particularly great. Here you can enjoy delicious sangria as well as a huge selection of tasty tapas.
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9 Prague, Czech Republic
The Golden City, the city of a hundred towers – this city has many nicknames and even more attractions can be found in it. Prague is not only the capital of the Czech Republic but also the most visited city in the country.
Prague, which lies on the Vltava River, is especially popular for its impressive old town, which is characterized mainly by Barock style and Gothic churches. The city center is easy to explore on foot and it’s an amazing experience to lose yourself in its side streets.
The most famous landmark of the city is the Charles Bridge, which can be crossed on foot. On the sides of the bridge, you can see some statues of Catholic clergies. A special feature is the Prague Astronomical Clock. It’s a mechanical clock which is over 600 years old. Once an hour you can join a wonderful and interesting carillon.
Another highlight is the Prague Castle. It is located a small climb away from the city center on the Hradschin mountain. The castle is considered the largest castle complex in the world. Inside of the castle grounds, there is even a cathedral located, St. Vitus Cathedral. You can climb up in order to enjoy a great view over Prague. But even without climbing up the tower it’s worth to visit the beautifully decorated interior of the cathedral.
8 Vienna, Austria
Vienna – Only at the memory of the Austrian capital, I have to immediately think of the delicious Sachertorte and whipped cream. The coffee house culture is very important in this unique European city. No wonder that about a big part of the Austrians live in and around Vienna. Since there is so much to see you should spend at least 2 days in Vienna.
Vienna has served many famous people as a home, such as Beethoven, Mozart or Sigmund Freud and of course Sisi. In Schönbrunn Palace you can discover how Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary used to live. But also the summer residence of the Habsburgs is worth a visit.
Vienna attaches great importance to culture and so you will find many cultural establishments, such as the museum district and Belvedere, which exhibits some important works, such as Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss. The city is home to many important theatrical and opera buildings, such as the Burgtheater and the Vienna State Opera, which also hosts the world-famous Vienna Opera Ball.
Another highlight of the city is the impressive St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which was built in the Gothic style and especially stands out with its colored roof tiles.
7 Rome, Italy
All roads lead to Rome – and in 2016, it led almost 7,120,000 travelers to the Eternal City. If you want to admire the remains of the headquarters of the Roman Empire, you should definitely visit Rome once in your life and stay at least 2 days in Rome or longer. The capital of Italy can look back on 3 millennia of history, making it a great destination for history buffs.
Not only the Colosseum is an absolute must-see. The Pantheon, the remains of the Roman Forum and the fountain Fontana di Trevi are also important sights when visiting Rome. Another highlight is the Spanish Steps dating back to the 18th century.
But many people come to Rome to visit a completely different place: the Vatican. Not only believers love to see St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel at close range.
Anyway, Foodies definitely won’t be disappointed by Rome either. But seriously, what could possibly go wrong in the birthplace of Spaghetti Carbonara?
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6 Milan, Italy
On rank 6, we can find another Italian city. Hands up, who would have guessed that Rome is not the most popular city in Italy? But here comes Milan and it also has a great bunch of attractions to offer.
Let’s start with the Milan Cathedral which is probably the most famous attraction in the city. The cathedral, which can be found in Piazza del Duomo, is considered the third largest church in the world and is probably the most popular photo opportunity in Milan.
Milan is also globally known as a fashion and design hotspot. Anyone interested in fashion should definitely visit the Quadrilatero d’oro della moda, the city’s golden fashion district. Also the shopping arcade Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II attracts fashion fans as well as travelers interested in its architecture.
But also for art lovers, Milan offerd incredible experiences. Not only because you can see Da Vinci’s extremely famous work of art The Last Supper. Another highlight for culture fans is a visit to the city’s opera house, La Scala.
5 Amsterdam, Netherlands
The first city in the top 5 most visited cities in Europe is the Dutch capital Amsterdam. With around 8,000,000 visitors a year, Amsterdam even ranks #13 in the world’s most visited cities. And not without reason. Also, Eduardo’s and my very first trip together took us to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is known not only for its dozens of cyclists, legal cannabis and its red light district. In addition to beautiful walks along the canals, you will find lots of culture and beautiful architecture.
The city is the perfect destination for art lovers: in addition to the Rijksmuseum, which includes works by Rembrandt, the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art and the Van Gogh Museum are popular attractions in Amsterdam. For history buffs, the Anne Frank House should of course not be missed.
If you are looking for a bit of relaxation after all those interesting museums, you can either relax a little on one of the many benches overlooking the peaceful canals and houseboats or visit the beautiful Vondelpark.
4 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Of course, my hometown of choice Barcelona can’t be missing on this list. Especially in the summer, the 8,200,000 tourists who stroll through Barcelona’s Gothic streets every year are hard to deny.
But I can only understand too well that all those people want to discover this beautiful city for themselves. The capital of Catalonia is simply the perfect mix of beach, culture, beautiful architecture, amazing food, wine, and nightlife. Who could say no to that?
Of course, the Sagrada Família, the arguably oldest construction site in the world, is the most important landmark of the city. Even today you can hardly see this famous building without construction cranes around it. Despite everything, dozens of travelers come here every day to visit this impressive attraction. From the Park Güell or the Bunkers del Carmel, you can perfectly see how huge the Sagrada Família actually is in contrast to the other buildings of the city and how it stands out from the cityscape.
But the Sagrada Família and Park Güell are not the only tourist attractions of the designer Antoni Gaudí, which make the city what it is. Also La Pedrera and Casa Battló are definitely worth a visit. Another highlight is a walk through the Barrio Gótico, which, as its name suggests, was constructed in Gothic style.
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3 Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul, once called Constantinople, is the city that lies on two continents. Ranked #8 in the global ranking, it is considered one of the most visited cities in the world. It’s not only the most populated city in Turkey but also the country’s center for culture and media.
What makes Istanbul so special is above all the influence of different cultures that have prevailed here over the centuries. In addition to Ottoman influences, Christian, Roman and Egyptian relics can be found.
One of the most famous sights in Istanbul is the Hagia Sophia, which is also known as St. Sophia. Once built as a church and later used as a mosque, today it’s used as a museum. Another highlight that shouldn’t be missed during a visit to Istanbul is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, which is also known as the Blue Mosque due to its blue tiles on the dome. Even today it is considered the main mosque of the city.
Also, the Topkapi Palace, which was used for several centuries as the seat of the sultan, should be a part of your Istanbul itinerary. Lastly, you should definitely have seen the spice market and the Grand Bazaar.
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2 Paris, France
The number 2 most visited city in Europe will probably not surprise anyone: Paris. The French capital is ranked 3rd of the most visited cities in the world and hosts around 18,030,000 visitors every year.
But what makes Paris so special? This question is easily answered: Paris is considered one of the hotspots worldwide for art, gastronomy, fashion, and culture.
In addition to the world-famous Eiffel Tower, which should not be missed (to be honest, it’s actually quite hard to miss in the first place), Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the city’s most popular attractions. Unfortunately, it recently fell victim to a fire and was severely damaged. (As of May 2019).
Above all, art connoisseurs visit the Louvre to have a look at Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. But also Musée d’Orsay, which houses, among others, works by Monet is well visited.
One of the most beautiful neighborhoods in the city is Montmartre. Moreover, the impressive Sacré-Coeur Basilica can be found in this area. Even a climb up the hill may be rewarding, as you can enjoy a great view of the city from here. Last but not least, you should not leave Paris without having strolled across the Champs-Èlysées window-shopping at its many boutiques. At the end of the street, you will find another famous attraction of the city: the Arc de Triomphe.
1 London, United Kingdom
Not surprisingly, Europe’s most visited city is London. The city on the Thames, which is not only the capital of England but also of Great Britain, is visited by just under 20,000,000 travelers every year. In the global ranking, London ranks second behind Bangkok, Thailand.
Fans of the British English Royal House should not miss Buckingham Palace. The changing of the guard is also an interesting spectacle. During the high season (April – July) this event takes place every day at 11 am, during the low season only every second day. There are so many things to see in the city that you should take your time to explore London in 3 days at least.
Probably the most famous landmark of the city is Big Ben. However, besides many misconceptions, Big Ben doesn’t refer to the clock tower (this is Elizabeth Tower) or the clock itself, but to the heaviest of the 5 bells of the tower. At the moment, however, construction work on the tower is taking place, which is expected to continue until 2021.
Another amazing attraction is Tower Bridge. Even better than walking yourself over Tower Bridge, is to have a look at it from one of the neighboring bridges. From here you can take the best photos. Close to the Tower Bridge you can also find the Tower of London, which houses the British Crown Jewels. Usually, the Tower of London is considered the most visited paid attraction in the United Kingdom.
If you want to experience London from a different angle, you should get a ticket for the London Eye. The London Eye, also known as the Millenium Wheel, is considered to be the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe with a height of 135 meters. Those who are not afraid of heights will definitely enjoy this slightly different kind of attraction. Another great viewpoint is 2013 inaugurated The Shad.
London is full of great attractions, so it’s not really surprising that the city on the Thames made it to first place. Other important city attractions include Piccadilly Circus, the British Museum, Hyde Park, Westminster Abby, Westminster Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral and Covent Garden.
How to get around Europe
If you are planning to see more than one of the places on this list it’s super easy to get around Europe. There is many low-cost airlines bringing you cheaply from one place to another. But also going by car or train travel in Europe are popular options.