Europe is the smallest continent but it is very diverse and is full of things to do. For a first visit in Europe, new travellers are overwhelmed with the vast choice of great destinations available within a small land. To be honest, the 10 essential cities to visit for first-timers are actually the most touristy and also a must-see, why else would they be so full of tourists? On this list, I will share with you some classics and my tips for a perfect debut in Europe!
This list doesn’t take into consideration the time one should spend in an overall trip with 10 stops. However, I think 3 weeks to one month seem reasonable to see all Europe’s essential cities. Let’s start!
I cannot think of any other city to kick this list with than London. The British capital is unique by its distinctive imperial traditions and its openness to the outside world. London is not European city only but also a global city that must be visited on every round the world tours too! Some highlights include Big Ben, London Eye, Buckingham Palace, British Museum, Kensington Palace, the Tower of London and Piccadilly Circus.
Read more: Bus 11: London’s Best Route for Sightseeing
I think a minimum of 3 nights should be spent in London. You can easily stay for a week and not be bored of it! Just bear in mind that the cost of living here are quite high so prepare a big budget for London! If you have a tight budget, I would suggest taking a public bus 11 that goes through many sights of London so, no need for a hop-on-hop-off bus tour!
Crossing the Channel from England is easy with the Eurostar or ferry, in 2 hours, you arrive to the French capital. Paris is a delight. It has many sights such as the mythical Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Notre Dame, Sacré Coeur and the Moulin Rouge.
Just like London, a minimum of 3 nights should be spent in Paris. The city is huge and one can never run out of things to do!
Read more: Things to Do in Paris in One Day
Jean Claude Van Damme is one of the reasons you probably heard of Belgium. Oh, chocolate, waffles and frites! The Belgian capital is also one of the capitals of Europe. Therefore, it is surely a must-see during a trip in Europe. However, I think a quick stop should be more than enough. I personally don’t connect a lot with Brussels, elsewhere in Belgium is much enjoyable in my opinion. But as one of the main cities in Europe, it still deserves to be seen at least once!
Read more: 5 Most Disappointing Monuments in Europe
Amsterdam is flooded by tourists and it can be easily felt because of its small city centre. There are many cultural things to do such as the Van Gogh Museum. However, most first-timers in Amsterdam seems to be attracted to the coffee shops of the city. They are a huge attraction on their own! Smoking a joint in Amsterdam is on the bucket list for many! I personally stayed one night in Amsterdam, I think it was enough.
This is one of my favourite cities in Europe. The divided city during the Cold War is now united more than ever. But along the previous lines of divisions, you will notice different architecture between some parts of the East and West and some different attitudes and ways of life. Some of the big sights are obviously the Berlin Wall in the East Side Gallery, Brandenburg Gate, Alexanderplatz and Checkpoint Charlie.
Another must-do in Berlin is try its great food scene especially Turkish doners! I went 3 times to Berlin and each time I spend around 5 days and I think it is just enough to want to come back again. It works, I always go back!
Read more: The Perfect Day in Berlin
The Czech capital is in the heart of Central Europe and is a first step towards what used to be the communist bloc during the Cold War. Many sights are concentrated in the Old Town but the most popular one is Charles Bridge. It is very beautiful but sadly over crowded. However, there is a way to avoid the crowds is by visiting in the early morning. Prague deserves at least 2 nights visit, apart from Charles Bridge, there is a lot else to see like Prague Castle!
Read more: Beautiful Spring Days in Prague
Budapest practically made it to the “essential” must-see stops in Europe in the early 2000s. It is the most East some tourists dared to go on their first-time in Europe. Even after the Cold War, there is a stereotype of East Europe but Budapest breaks it all! It is a party place with unique vibes and exclusive parties such as Foam Parties in the city’s baths. I think 3 nights in Budapest are ideal for an unrushed visit.
The heart of Europe, Vienna, is unique with its architecture. From the inner parts of the city and beyond, its influence goes beyond the territories of Austria. Therefore, expect to see grandiose buildings with golden domes and perfectly sculpted statues. I think 3 to 4 days in Vienna are enough but surely more won’t do any harm!
Try to visit during one of the many cultural events in the city. In January and February, the city hosts over 400 balls. They are quite tourist friendly as long as you stick to the dress code and ethics of the event. I recently experienced a ball in Vienna, it was magical!
Read more: How to Enjoy the Ball Season in Vienna
The eternal capital is one hell of a touristy city but it all makes sense when you step foot into one of the city’s main sights: Fontana di Trevi. This fountain is alone reason enough to visit Rome, but imagine dozens of other sights offering a great value to visitors like the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps and the tiny influential Christian country inside Rome, the Vatican.
Read more: Five Reasons to Visit the Vatican
Barcelona, Barcelona! The Catalan capital is one of Spain’s main assets. It is full of art, full of life and full of visitors. I would seriously advise visiting Barcelona on an off-season period to enjoy it more. I went twice. Once in October and another time in June. Guess what, I enjoyed it much more in October. I think 4 or 5 days should be enough. If you’re a fan of football, the Camp Nou, the home stadium of FC Barcelona is a great visit. The Olympic Games installations are also a must-do. Park Guell, Las Ramblas and Sagrada Familia are all a delight to visit. Also, if you want to do something unusual, why don’t you sleep in a yacht at Barceloneta Port?
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Have you ever been to any of those cities?