Condé Nast Traveler readers cast hundreds of thousands of votes for the best cities in Europe in the 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards survey. From long-time winners like London and Paris, to newcomers that include Athens and Avignon, the variety showcases the diverse nature of the continent. Is your favourite on the list?
There’s a lot to love about Norway’s capital—a soon-to-be-car-free city centre, new sleek design models, and so much good food. Feast at the Mathallen Oslo Food Hall, where you’ll find anything from a seafood bar (diners can watch as the food is prepared) to a cheese store, Gutta på Haugen; there are 30 vendors total. Once you’ve had your fill, head over to the Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art, which is currently exhibiting Jeff Koons and Frank Benson, among other artists. (If you stay at The Thief, you get free entry.) To cap it all off, the city is incredibly bike friendly so you can sightsee while getting in a workout—you know, in case that’s your thing.
Located in Spain’s beautiful Basque country, San Sebastián has no shortage of activities for travellers, be it surfing at Playa de Gros or touring the Parte Vieja (Old Town). But let’s face it: you’re going to spend most of your time here eating. The undisputed culinary capital of the country, San Sebastián has some of the excellent restaurant in the world—including three with a three-star Michelin rating. The city is also famous for its pintxos (Basque tapas), from beef cheeks and squid croquettes to mushroom risotto and blistered padrón peppers. Pair every meal with some of the region’s best wines, and you have yourself a vacation your stomach will never forget.
Lisbon has long been one of the most underestimated cities in Europe but it looks like the secret is finally starting to get out—take in the coastal views historic architecture, and pastéis de nata and you’ll see what we mean. Change is also on the way: “In the next few years, the city will welcome a major art, architecture, and technology museum, dozens of restored and landscaped public squares, several skyscrapers, a sprawling brand-new cruise terminal, and many additional shops, studios, and cultural spaces,” Traveler contributor Julia Cooke reports.
Copenhagen has a thriving beer culture, some of the world’s greatest restaurants, royal history, pedestrian- and cycle-friendly zones all these things together helps to make Copenhagen the capital of Nordic cool. The city is routinely ranked one of the world’s most expensive, but some of the capital’s best activities—marvelling at Christiansborg Palace, walking harborside in Nyhavn—cost nothing at all. Tight on time? Head to Nørrebro and walk Guldbergsgade, it is one of the most exciting streets of the city and you can easily fill an entire day amid this tiny enclave’s tightly crammed, glass-fronted restaurants and one-of-a-kind shops.
Often overshadowed by Madrid and Barcelona, Spain’s third-largest city is ready for its turn in the spotlight. Valencia is truly a work of art, complete with Gothic architecture, Mediterranean views, and incredible interconnected green spaces. You can get almost anywhere in the city without a car, which means you have no excuse to skip gems like the City of Arts and Sciences or El Miguelete. Plan a visit during March to witness the spectacle that is Las Fallas, an annual festival that honours the feast of St. Joseph with street parties and fireworks. Seeing the 30-foot effigies set on fire during the celebration’s final night is an experience for the bucket lists.
This beautiful seaside city in southern Ireland has everything you could want in an Irish town: history, scenery, and cosy pubs galore. Cork also happens to be one of the affectionate cities in the world which means you can pretty much share a table with the locals without any awkwardness. The walkable city is filled with enough cafes and restaurant to keep you satisfied (don’t miss local “chipper” KC & Son & Sons), while the hotel offerings are some of the grandest in the country. Make time, too, to browse the local art galleries and load up on goodies at the English Market.
You might know Granada by the Alhambra, a red-tinged castle that dates back to 1238 and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s one of many examples of medieval architecture within Granada and sits overlooking the city from a hilltop—in a neighbourhood that “preserves remains of the ancient Arabic quarter,” according to UNESCO. Granada is additionally just a 20-minute drive from Sierra Nevada National Park, which is known for its climbing, mountaineering, and mountain biking alternatives, among other open-air exercises. the Back in town, don’t miss the habitas con jamón (fried baby broad beans with ham) while you’re out to eat—it’s a locals favourite
The capital of southern Spain’s Andalusia region, Seville is packed with history: Moorish influences can be seen all over the city, but the UNESCO- listed Alcazar of Seville is one of its best-known landmarks—and not just because it’s used as the royal palace of the House Martell in Games of Thrones. Also on our must-do list? Check out the intricate tilework at Plaza de España, squeeze in for tapas at the Bodega Santa Cruz, and when the sun sets, head to the Triana neighbourhood for some flamenco, which originated in the city in the 18th century.
Spain’s northern port city is the hottest city. You probably know Bilbao for its Gehry-designed Guggenheim Museum (which, by the way, still looks good some 20 years after construction), but that only scrapes the surface of what this city has to offer. There’s also superior sparkling wine, pintxos galore, and rolling hills as beautiful as any architecture. We suggest hard-cider houses and pintxos bars before settling down for the night at Grand Hotel Domine Bilbao—then doing the exact same thing the following day.
We wouldn’t be the first one to call Rome the world’s greatest outdoor museum. And no matter how many times we go to the Eternal City, we stop dead in our tracks at the first glimpse of the Pantheon as we turn into the Piazza della Rotonda. Ditto the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, and the Colosseum (all recently restored). But when you visited Rome more than once you realise that the monuments themselves are not the destination. Rather, they’re the backdrop to a lifestyle we came here for. We’re talking about la dolce vita—the art of lingering over long lunches and carafes of house wine in villa-lined piazzas, strolling down impossibly narrow cobblestone streets with no particular destination in mind.
Watches, cheese fondue, a high median rate of income—it’s true, all of these things are endemic to Zurich, a city whose love for order and efficiency is well-known the world over. But for all its rigour, there’s also loads of charm to be found in this medieval-tinged metropolis: Winding, cobblestone streets, centuries-old churches, and high design-minded, albeit unpretentious boutiques, are just a few of the high notes. On the off chance that you make it, drop your packs at the peruser most loved Baur au lac inn, and set your focus on either side of the Limmat River: There’s Fraumünster Church, with its recoloured glass windows graciousness Marc Chagall, and Kunsthaus Zürich, one of the nation’s most preeminent art museums. Also, remember to stop by Kronenhalle’s moody bar for a beverage, where unique works by Matisse and Picasso will stay with you—alongside the drinks, that is.
These days, one of the world’s oldest cities is brimming with new life. See the Acropolis and the Ancient Agora, sure, but don’t miss shopping Monastiraki’s flea market, walking up Lykavittos Hill, or exploring the city’s burgeoning Exarcheia neighbourhood. Earmark an afternoon for the Renzo Piano-designed, $623 million Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre, which houses the National Opera and the National Library of Greece, and sits on the biggest park in Athens. When you’ve finished your touring, fuel up with a souvlaki (or three) at O Kostas, which serves the best in town.
Stockholm is one of the most beautiful city it isn’t just scenic: It’s also the cultural, political, media, and economic centre of Sweden. Make like a local and stroll narrow cobblestone streets, hang by the city’s colourful waterfront, and take advantage of the country’s fika culture (how coffee can—and should—be consumed). Though many travellers spend most of their time in the medieval centre, Stockholm actually comprises 14 islands of an archipelago, which makes it a perfect jumping off point for island hopping: Fjäderholmarna, one of the closest, is just 20 minutes by boat, and Djurgården, aptly dubbed Stockholm’s playground, is filled with idyllic woods, trails, marshes, and wetlands. And an ABBA Museum.
Our readers and travels expert alike agree: It’s a great opportunity to return to Istanbul. Notwithstanding a progression of injuries in the course of recent years—dread assaults, political change, a cash emergency—complete outside entries to Turkey are conjecture to rise 5.7 per cent from 2017 to in excess of 38 million this year, the World Travel and Tourism Council says. Istanbul is that capital city which will dependably attract us with its Byzantine and Ottoman design, the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market, and memorable bars. It is safe to say that you are hoping to get away from the groups? Go to Galata’s slope and down into Karaköy, investigating the shops and eateries on the route.
Our readers aren’t the only ones who love Avignon. Traveller editors have also taken note of the Provence city this past year, thanks in large part to an influx of hotel openings and buzzy restaurants. La Divine Comédie, a majestic mansion with the largest private garden in town, made it on the 2018 Hot List, while La Mirande was dubbed one of the best place to eat in France (eat at the chef’s table downtown). But don’t forget about Avignon’s old charms just yet—the city’s stupefyingly rich architecture and Rhône views never fail to impress.
Edinburgh is a beloved, distinctive capital in Western Europe. Where can you find this type of a medieval Old Town, an extinct volcano, regal (visitable!) castle, and “New Town” from the 1800s in just one city? It’s another one of those cities that looks great in all seasons—and has more than enough whisky dens and museums and top-notch restaurants to duck into when the wet-cold of winter gets into your bones. Warm up with fresh and hearty fish pie or risotto at Scran and Scallie , a Stockbridge restaurant by the team behind Michelin-starred The Kitchin; the spicy lamb and chilli cheese toast at Indian restaurant Dishoom ; and a wee dram in the soaring Peacock Alley lounge of The Waldorf Astoria – The Caledonian, once a train concourse and now one of the finest hotels in town.
Located about an hour west of Geneva, the third-largest city in France should move up a few notches on your list—especially if you consider yourself a foodie. Lyon is known for its nap-inducing feasts, but a few innovative restaurants are waking up the streets. Try La Bijouterie for French diminish total; or Le Bouchon des Filles for lighter twists on conventional top picks, similar to lentil serving of mixed greens spiked with a frankfurter. In the middle of dinners, try Lyon’s different exercises, regardless of whether it’s walking around UNESCO-recorded neighbourhoods or unwinding in one of the Old City’s boutique inns.
There’s no city like Venice its the best city with its canals, the labyrinth of car-free cobblestone streets, and hidden passageways are ultimate for wandering—even getting lost here is miraculous. Head to Al Muro for authentic Venetian cuisine, or for a more adventurous itinerary, get out of the well-trod historic centre and take a boat to nearby Islands Sant’Erasmo or Giudecca. Want to avoid the crowds? Book a trip in January, just before Carnival arrives, or follow our guide to eating and shopping around
Windmills, cycling, Van Gogh, and canals are all part of Amsterdam’s storied charm, but there’s more to the Dutch capital than its most apparent associations. To make your tour more exciting grab a drink at Droog, a renovated 17th-century hotel with just one room; float in a weightless state in the saltwater pods at Koan Float; or try creative takes on seasonal fruits and vegetables at De Kas, a restaurant housed in the former Amsterdam City Greenery. Sleeping in the city just got more stylish, too: Kimpton introduced its first European outpost here in spring 2017.
Porto is known for its wine and port, but oenophiles aren’t the only ones who have fallen in love with this beautiful northern city. Aside from booze, Portugal’s second city has some of the best scenery in the country—and some of the best shopping: think idiosyncratic artwork, crafts, and handmade clothing. We’re fans of the hillside Yeatman Hotel, and we even dubbed Zé Bota one of the best restaurants in the world. And with TAP Air Portugal offering more non-stop flights to Porto—including daily flights from Newark—you really have no more excuses not to visit.
Tallinn, Estonia looks straight out of a fairytale, complete with colourful buildings, turreted castles, and a lovely location right on the Baltic Sea. The city is known for its Old Town—another UNESCO winner —which is a “well-preserved example of a medieval northern European trading city,” including historic churches, craftsman guilds, and merchant houses. The Pirita district (on the river of the same name) is excellent for families—there’s a beach and seaside restaurants, plus an amusement park, “fitness trail,” and botanical gardens. Next stop, Estonia…
With the absolute best Art Nouveau design in Europe, picturesque Budapest has a couple of awful edges. Budapest is that place in Europe where the pursuit of pleasure hits a new high. Delve into the the Hungarian capital’s spa culture at thermal baths built in the 16th and 17th century; have coffee and pastry with a side of ostentation at the gilded Gerbeaud or New York cafes; and walk on the Széchenyi Chain Bridge at night over the Danube River for exciting views—and a reminder of the good life.
Whether it’s their first or 15th trip to London, our readers can’t get enough of this city. It’s a starter trip for many Americans looking for that first passport Stamp; it’s also constantly changing, despite its deep roots on display at, say, Westminster Abbey, or the Tower of London. After checking out the classics, head to Brawn in Bethnal Green catch a show at Almeida, a performance venue housed in a former train station in Islington; go shopping or hotel bar hopping in Shoreditch; and see how many of the city’s best cocktail bars can be ticked off the list in one weekend.
The enchantment of Madrid is best captured by walking, strolling around the lanes, halting in a gallery or sitting for a beverage at La Alemana, a memorable bar once frequented by Ava Gardner and Ernest Hemingway. For a taste of everyday Spanish life in this vibrant capital city, shop at El Corte Ingles, sample the market culture at Mercado de San Anton and the Mercado de San Fernando, and bring your picnic to the ancient Egyptian Temple of Debod, which was donated to Spain in 1968 and can be found in the Parque del Oeste.
Last year, we dubbed Antwerp a “capital of cool”—and that title holds true today. The Flemish port city is truly a haven for design-lovers, with Balenciaga sneakers in boutiques and Warhol paintings in museums (don’t miss modern-art museum M HKA). The food offerings range from three-star restaurants to weekend farmers’ markets, while new hotels like Hotel Franq and Hotel Pilar make bedtime something to look forward to. And then there’s Kanaal—a 180,500-square-foot private arts centre created by local designer Axel Vervoordt. Open in 2017, the complex features three art galleries, an organic food market, a Japanese Restaurant, and edgy apartments for people to rent. Hey, there are certainly worse places to spend a long weekend.
From the mountains to the shoreline, the notable to the contemporary, bright Barcelona—fortunate city that it is—has everything. Look over Catalan history at EL Born focus social or take a road craftsmanship voyage through the stylish El Raval locale. For dining, try a 40-course supper at the conundrum, an eatery by Ferran Adrià, or stay great at Quimet y Quimet, a standing-room-just joint that has been worked by a similar family for over 100 years.
Paris hardly needs an introduction—proper nouns will suffice the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, Sacre-Coeur, Musee Rodin, Centre Pompidou, Saint-Germain, the Seine (at dusk). Eat like the French close to the Bastille at Chez Paul or walk around the statues at the rich Luxembourg Gardens. To stay, treat yourself to a room at the impeccable Hotel court Athenee or the remoulded Hôtel de Crillon, which revived in September 2017 following a four-year remodel. Set up everything together, and you’ll see why the city is solidly settled as a standout amongst the most lovely on the planet.
Though Rome is Italy’s much-beloved capital and Milan has serious cosmopolitan clout, Florence remains unrivalled in history, art, and architecture (its beauty and cuisine don’t hurt, either). In addition to being the birthplace of the Renaissance, the Firenze of recent years has had a modern makeover: study Tuscan works of art with superstar gourmet expert Arturo Dori at Desinare, one of the city’s most sweltering cooking school/structure store , or take in present-day craftsmanship at La Strozzina, Florence’s middle for contemporary culture. Wherever the day takes you, spare space for a panino al lampredotto—this stewed tripe sandwich is a Florence must.
Germany has no shortage of scenic cities, but Nuremberg stands out for its distinct blend of old and new. Once the “unofficial” capital of the Holy Roman Empire and an early capital of science and development, Nuremberg today is best known for its Christkindlesmarkt, strongholds, historical centres, and bratwurst, which have been sold here since the fourteenth century.
Cologne is often dominated by Berlin and Munich, yet the 2,000-year-old city on the banks of the Rhine River has its fans for a reason: Think High Gothic engineering, 12 Romanesque holy places, yearly scholarly celebrations, and the Museum Ludwig, a standout among the most significant accumulations of present-day craftsmanship in Europe. (Kölsch beer, especially fermented here, most likely aides, as well.)
Despite being one of Switzerland’s financial centres, Rhine-side Basel feels more like a storybook setting than a tight-laced commercial centre. That’s probably due to the city’s cobblestoned Old Town, complete with a picturesque cathedral, market square, and natural spring. Scenery aside, Basel also happens to be Switzerland’s cultural capital, with world-renowned art museums and plenty of orchestras and theatres. Plan a visit during December to experience one of the best Yule markets in all of Europe.
With its secured extensions, turreted structures, and bright Old Town, Lucerne is storybook Swiss. And it is always, always on this list of top cities. Settled on the shores of Lake Lucerne, the urban focus is likewise a well-known flight point for the Swiss Alps, which are obvious from the town. Walk the city’s popular Kapellbrücke, the most established shrouded connect in Europe, and snatch a home-prepared brew close-by at Rathaus Brauerei when wrapped up. To test conventional Lucerne dishes like veal with cream sauce and rösti, head to Wirtshaus Galliker, which the Galliker family has kept running for multiple ages.
Love the canals of Amsterdam and Venice? the urban centre reportedly has over each city, combined. Float through the historic Speicherstadt warehouse district and past the 19th-century government building, or continue physical object to run underneath the watercourse via the Alter Elbtunnel, that has design lining its covered walls. no matter you are doing, don’t miss the 361-foot, $1 billion Elbphilharmonie concert venue.
Made noted by Mozart (and the Von Trapps), classic Salzburg sits divided by the Salzach River: It’s pedestrian previous town lines its neighbourhood, and therefore the nineteenth-century contains the proper. To drink like a local, head to Braustubl zu Mulln Austria’s largest beer hall, where beer is drawn directly from wooden barrels and can be enjoyed alongside traditional and regional specialities from the Schmankerlgang, an Old World food court of sorts.
Artistic, exquisite, and mostly formed by its musical and intellectual foundations, Austria’s capital and largest town are filled with culture. It’s the sort of town wherever you may with happiness visit four museums during a day and still have additional to determine or be part of fellow culture vultures for an out of doors broadcast of the most recent opera—in the dead of winter. (There can continuously be a crowd for the opera.) build time to induce a figurative style of royalty at Schönbrunn, the Habsburgs’ former summer residence, and acquire AN actual style of Sachertorte, a cake that’s an area treat, at building Sacher Vienna’s restaurant Sacher. simply take care to fire the additional decadent course MIT schlaag—with cream.