If you are planning to visit Europe, picking a destination can be difficult. It is a diverse continent that is rich in history, culture, and beauty. You can find some of the best food in the world, stunning beaches, and breathtaking mountain peaks.
To help inspire your decision, here are the top 6 best countries to visit in Europe (in the Schengen Area) ordered by how many visited them in 2016. No matter what type of holiday you are looking for, you’ll find the perfect European holiday destination in this list.
1) France (82.6 million visitors)
France is not only the most visited country in Europe, it is the world’s number one tourist destination. Its mouth-watering food, incredible scenery, and rich culture make it an irresistible location.
Paris is the main draw and one of the best cities to visit in Europe. Its iconic landmarks include the Eiffel Tower, Champs-Élysée, and Notre Dame. The most visited museums in Paris are the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay which are both brimming with masterpieces.
However, outside of Paris there is plenty to see. 37 UNESCO sites, the French Pyranees, stunning rivers, idyllic vineyards, as well as cities such as Nice, Marseilles, and Toulouse, mean that France is ripe with opportunity.
2) Spain (75.6 million visitors)
The world is finally moving past the stereotypical view of Spain: flamenco, bullfighting, siestas, and sangria. Spain is an incredibly diverse country, consisting of entirely different regions.
The landscapes vary dramatically from the lush, green hillsides of the north, to the hot and dry south, which includes Europe’s only desert. There are also numerous spoken languages including Spanish, Catalan, Basque, and Galician.
Whichever part you visit you’ll find something special. Whether it be the museums of Madrid, the otherworldly architecture of Barcelona, the golden beaches of the coasts, or the fascinating, or Moorish cities of the south. Spain is undoubtedly one of the best destinations in Europe to visit.
3) Italy (52.4 million visitors)
Italy has the most UNESCO world heritage sites, and probably the most popular food, in the world. It is fascinating country, the home of the Renaissance and the Roman Empire, it is truly one of the best destinations in Europe.
Whether you want to see spectacular scenery, masterpieces from artists such as Michelangelo and Da Vinci, or iconic structures like the Colosseum or the Tower of Pisa, the problem you’ll have is how to fit it all in.
Italy has a number of the best cities in Europe to visit including Rome, Venice, Naples, and Florence. The Italian Alps provide the perfect setting for a skiing holiday and there are also the beaches of the south.
4) Germany (35.6 million visitors)
The 2006 football world cup was a turning point for Germany’s image, a proud, diverse, outward-looking country. Known as the cradle of modernism, Germany’s contribution to the world is impressive.
Its history dates back 2,000 years and there are many historical and cultural sites to see such as the Brandenburg Gate and the Pergamon Museum. Germany’s great classical composers include Beethoven, Bach, and Wagner, and this alone provides many tourists with a powerful reason to visit.
Berlin is one of the best places to visit in Europe. It combines both glamour and grit and offers uba-modern architecture, a 24/7 party scene, and a truly unique history. The unofficial capital of the south, Munich, is famed for its beer halls, medieval architecture, and its annual festival Oktoberfest.
5) Austria (28.1 million visitors)
Situated in the Alps, Austria is renowned for its picturesque beauty. It is one of the best European destinations for skiing and hiking, but also known for its baroque architecture and musical heritage (which includes Mozart, Strauss, and the Von Trapp family).
Over centuries, the Habsburg dynasty poured their wealth into the arts, as well as stunning castles and palaces, such as the Schonbrunn Palace. Museums such as the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Klimt are brimming with masterpieces.
Vienna, the capital, is particularly beautiful and culturally-rich. It is certainly one of the best places to visit in central Europe. There is also exciting contemporary architecture in the city which merges well with the old.
6) Greece (24.8 million visitors)
For sunseekers looking for an island paradise, Greece has thousands, making it one of the most popular places to visit in Europe in summer. Its incredible history goes back to its ancient era, four thousand years ago.
Often called the ‘cradle of western civilization’, Greece is credited with the creation of democracy and early philosophical thinking. The capital, Athens, is a living museum and retains numerous landmarks from the ancient era, such as the Parthenon Temple.
The Greek landscape is wonderful. The islands consist of idyllic beaches and mountainous interiors. They are the perfect places to relax or enjoy activities such as hiking and watersports.