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Europe, a continent bursting with diverse cultures, landscapes, and histories, offers countless destinations that appeal to every type of traveler. From the ancient ruins of Rome to the modern art galleries of Berlin, the continent is a tapestry of experiences waiting to be discovered. In this blog, we explore 15 cool places in Europe that should be on every traveler’s list. Tired of the tourist traps? Unlock the secret side of the cool places in Europe to visit with our insider tips. Start planning your dream trip today!
1. Reykjavik, Iceland
Dive into Geothermal Pools and Explore Volcanic Landscapes
Reykjavik, the world’s northernmost capital, offers an intriguing mix of cool urban culture and wild natural beauty. From the steamy Blue Lagoon to the dramatic landscapes that surround the city, it’s a gateway to once-in-a-lifetime experiences like watching the Northern Lights.
What are the top 5 things do in Reykjavik?
- Explore the colorful streets of downtown Reykjavik: Start your Reykjavik adventure by exploring the vibrant downtown area. Stroll down Laugavegur, the main shopping street, and admire the colorful houses and unique shops. Be sure to stop by the iconic Hallgrímskirkja church, which offers stunning views of the city from its tower
- Visit the Perlan: The Perlan, also known as the Pearl, is a unique building offering 360-degree views of the city. You can take a rotating glass elevator to the top for panoramic views, or visit the planetarium or the SagaMuseum, which tells the story of Iceland’s Viking past.
- Discover the wonders of the Golden Circle: No trip to Iceland is complete without a visit to the Golden Circle, a popular tourist route that takes in some of the country’s most stunning natural attractions. Highlights include Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet; Gullfoss waterfall, a powerful double waterfall plunging into a 70-meter canyon; and the Geysir geothermal area, where Strokkur geyser erupts every few minutes.
- Relax in the Blue Lagoon: After a day of exploring, soak in the warm, milky-blue waters of the Blue Lagoon, a geothermal spa located in a lava field. The lagoon is rich in minerals and silica, which are said to be beneficial for the skin.
- Go whale watching: Iceland is a great place to go whale watching. From Reykjavik, you can take a boat trip out into the Atlantic Ocean to see a variety of whales, dolphins, and porpoises.
2. Copenhagen, Denmark
Pioneer of Design and Sustainability
Copenhagen is the epitome of Scandinavian cool, known for its commitment to sustainability, bicycle-friendly streets, and a design scene that influences the rest of the world. The city’s food scene, highlighted by New Nordic cuisine, is a gastronomic adventure.
What are the top 5 things do in Copenhagen?
- Explore the Tivoli Gardens: Step into a fairytale world at the Tivoli Gardens, one of the most popular amusement parks in the world. This historic park, established in 1843, boasts charming gardens, thrilling rides, and a variety of entertainment options, including concerts, ballet performances, and pantomimes.
- Wander through Nyhavn: Take a stroll along the picturesque Nyhavn harbor, lined with colorful 17th and 18th-century townhouses. Enjoy a delicious meal at one of the many waterfront restaurants, soak up the lively atmosphere, and snap photos of the iconic ships docked in the harbor.
- Visit the Amalienborg Palace: Witness the Changing of the Guard ceremony at the Amalienborg Palace, the official residence of the Danish royal family. This colorful spectacle takes place every day at noon, and it’s a great way to experience Danish tradition and culture.
- Climb the Rundetaarn: Ascend the Rundetaarn, a 17th-century observatory offering panoramic views of the city. Walk or bike up the spiraling ramp inside the tower, and enjoy breathtaking vistas of Copenhagen’s rooftops, spires, and historical landmarks.
- Indulge in the Smørrebrød: Savor the quintessential Danish dish, Smørrebrød, an open-faced sandwich piled with an array of toppings like shrimp, roast beef, and various cheeses. Explore the local food scene by visiting the Torvehallerne market, where you can sample fresh produce, artisan cheeses, and other Danish delicacies.
3. Stockholm, Sweden
Islands, Innovation, and Impeccable Design
Stockholm spans 14 islands, each offering a different vibe, from the historic Old Town to the modern innovation hubs. The city’s coolness is defined by its design, fashion, and music scenes.
What are the top 5 things do in Stockholm?
- Explore the Gamla Stan (Old Town): Immerse yourself in the charm of Stockholm’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wander through its narrow cobbled streets, lined with colorful 17th and 18th-century buildings, and explore its many historical landmarks, including the majestic Stockholm Cathedral, the Royal Palace, and the Nobel Museum. Opens in a new windowwww.viator.comGamla Stan (Old Town) Stockholm
- Visit the Vasa Museum: Step back in time and marvel at the Vasa, a 17th-century warship that sank on its maiden voyage and was remarkably preserved for centuries. The Vasa Museum showcases the ship in all its glory, providing a fascinating glimpse into shipbuilding and life in the Swedish Navy during the Age of Sail. Opens in a new windowwww.city-guide-stockholm.comVasa Museum Stockholm
- Explore Djurgården Island: Escape the city bustle and explore Djurgården, a beautiful island packed with museums, attractions, and green spaces. Visit the open-air museum Skansen, home to traditional Swedish houses, animals, and cultural demonstrations; be entertained at Gröna Lund amusement park; or delve into the world of music at the ABBA Museum. Opens in a new windowwww.city-guide-stockholm.comDjurgården Island Stockholm
- Take a boat tour: Stockholm is best experienced from the water. Hop on a boat tour and admire the city’s stunning archipelago, consisting of over 24,000 islands. Glide past historical landmarks, charming waterfront neighborhoods, and lush green spaces for a unique perspective of the city. Opens in a new windowwww.visitstockholm.comBoat tour Stockholm
- Savor the local cuisine: From traditional Swedish fare to international influences, Stockholm’s culinary scene has something for every palate. Sample freshly caught seafood, indulge in savory meatballs, or enjoy a fika (coffee break) with delicious pastries. Don’t miss out on visiting Östermalms Saluhall, a beautiful market hall offering a wide variety of local produce and delicacies.
4. Ljubljana, Slovenia
A Green Capital with a Heart
Ljubljana may be Europe’s hidden gem, offering a relaxed vibe, green spaces, and a beautiful river that cuts through its center. The city’s coolness lies in its commitment to environmental sustainability and a lively cafe culture.
What are the top 5 things do in Ljubljana?
- Explore Ljubljana Castle: This iconic castle perched on a hill offers stunning views of the city and beyond. You can walk up the hill to reach the castle, or take the funicular railway. Inside the castle, you’ll find exhibits on the history of Ljubljana and Slovenia, as well as a restaurant with a beautiful terrace.Opens in a new windowwww.visitljubljana.comLjubljana Castle, Slovenia
- Wander through the charming Old Town: Ljubljana’s Old Town is a maze of narrow streets and colorful buildings. Here, you can find charming cafes, shops, and restaurants. Be sure to check out the Triple Bridge, the Franciscan Church, and the Preseren Square, the main square of the city.Opens in a new windowchevron_righten.wikipedia.orgFranciscan Church, Ljubljana, Slovenia
- Relax by the Ljubljanica River: The Ljubljanica River winds its way through the city center, and it’s a great place to relax and take in the scenery. You can take a boat ride on the river, or simply stroll along the banks and enjoy the views.Opens in a new windowtravelslovenia.orgLjubljanica River, Ljubljana, Slovenia
- Visit Tivoli Park: This vast park is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Here, you can find walking and biking paths, gardens, and even a zoo. It’s a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy some fresh air.Opens in a new windowwww.tripadvisor.comTivoli Park, Ljubljana, Slovenia
- Take a day trip to Lake Bled: Lake Bled is a beautiful lake located about an hour from Ljubljana. It’s a popular spot for swimming, boating, and hiking. You can also visit Bled Island, which is located in the middle of the lake and is home to a charming church.
5. Valletta, Malta
Sun-Kissed Streets and Rich History
Valletta, one of the world’s smallest capitals, packs a punch with its sun-drenched streets, baroque architecture, and a history that spans over 7,000 years. The city’s cool factor is its blend of cultures and a stunning harbor.
What are the top 5 things do in Valetta?
- Explore the Grandmaster’s Palace:
Grandmaster’s Palace in Valletta, Malta
This opulent palace was once the home of the Grand Masters of the Knights of St. John, who ruled Malta from 1530 to 1798. Today, it houses the Maltese Parliament, but you can still visit the State Rooms, which are decorated with tapestries, frescoes, and armory. The palace also offers stunning views of the Grand Harbor.
- See the art at St. John’s Co-Cathedral:
St. John’s CoCathedral in Valletta, Malta
This stunning Baroque cathedral is a must-see for any art lover. Be sure to look up at the ceiling, which is decorated with a magnificent painting by Caravaggio called “The Beheading of Saint John.” The cathedral also houses a number of other impressive works of art, including sculptures and paintings by Maltese artists.
- Wander through the Upper Barrakka Gardens:
Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta, Malta
These beautiful gardens offer panoramic views of the Grand Harbor and the Three Cities. They are a great place to relax and enjoy the sunshine, and you can also watch the firing of the noon gun ceremony, which takes place every day at midday.
- Take a walk along the waterfront:
waterfront in Valletta, Malta
The Valletta waterfront is a great place to stroll and take in the views. There are a number of cafes and restaurants along the way, so you can stop for a bite to eat or a drink. You can also take a boat trip from the waterfront, which is a great way to see the city from a different perspective.
- Visit the National Museum of Archaeology:
National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta, Malta
This museum houses a collection of artifacts from Malta’s prehistoric past to the Roman period. It is a great place to learn about the island’s history and culture.
6. Ghent, Belgium
Medieval Architecture and a Modern Vibe
Ghent is a vibrant city that boasts a fascinating mix of medieval architecture and contemporary culture. Its canals, castle, and cathedrals are stunning, while the local food and arts scene reflects a youthful energy.
1. Immerse yourself in history and architecture:
- Explore the Gravensteen Castle: This imposing 12th-century fortress offers a glimpse into Ghent’s medieval past, with its towers, ramparts, and interactive exhibits.
- Marvel at the Ghent Belfry and Cloth Hall: This UNESCO World Heritage Site showcases exquisite architecture and houses a fascinating belfry tower you can climb for panoramic city views.
- Wander through the Graslei and Korenlei quays: Lined with picturesque guild houses and vibrant cafes, these historic quays offer a charming riverside ambiance and stunning canal views.
- Discover St. Bavo’s Cathedral: This magnificent cathedral houses iconic artworks like Jan van Eyck’s “Ghent Altarpiece,” making it a must-see for art lovers.
2. Experience Ghent’s vibrant culture:
- Savor the local cuisine: Indulge in traditional Flemish dishes like “waterzooi” (stew) and “stoemp” (mashed potatoes), or explore the vibrant food scene with diverse restaurants and cafes.
- Join a local festival: Ghent hosts various festivals throughout the year, from the vibrant Ghent Festivities in July to the cozy Christmas market, offering a unique cultural experience.
- Explore the Patershol district: This historic quarter features charming streets, independent shops, and hidden courtyards, perfect for strolling and discovering local gems.
- Immerse yourself in the arts: Visit the Museum of Fine Arts (MSK) for an extensive collection of Flemish art, or explore the House of Alijn for a unique look into Ghent’s daily life and traditions.
3. Take a relaxing boat tour:
- Glide along the canals: Embark on a scenic boat tour through Ghent’s historic canals, offering a different perspective on the city’s landmarks and hidden corners.
- Cruise the Leie River: Take a boat trip along the scenic Leie River, passing lush landscapes, charming villages, and medieval castles.
4. Enjoy outdoor activities:
- Cycle through the city: Rent a bike and explore Ghent’s cobbled streets, canals, and green spaces at your own pace.
- Relax in the Citadel Park: This vast park offers a peaceful escape within the city, with walking paths, lakes, and even a zoo.
- Take a day trip: Explore nearby cities like Bruges, known for its chocolate and canals, or Antwerp, renowned for its diamond district and historical center.
5. Indulge in your personal interests:
Beyond these highlights, Ghent offers countless options depending on your preferences. Are you a history buff? Visit the STAM Ghent City Museum or the Ghent City Hall. Do you love beer? Explore local breweries and sample Belgian beers. Are you interested in contemporary art? Check out the SMAK museum or the many art galleries.
7. Riga, Latvia
Art Nouveau Splendor and Baltic Charm
Riga, the Baltic gem, is celebrated for its Art Nouveau architecture and vibrant history. The city’s old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a labyrinth of cobblestone streets, cozy cafes, and intriguing museums.
- Explore the Old Town: Riga’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-see for any visitor. Wander through the cobbled streets, marvel at the colorful buildings, and visit the many historical landmarks, such as the Riga Домский собор (Cathedral), St. Peter’s Church, and the House of the Blackheads. Opens in a new windowchevron_rightwww.latvia.travelRiga Домский собор (Cathedral), Latvia
- Visit the Central Market: The Riga Central Market is one of the largest and most impressive markets in Europe. Housed in former Zeppelin hangars, the market offers a wide variety of fresh produce, local crafts, and souvenirs. Be sure to try some of the Latvian specialties, such as rye bread, smoked fish, and amber jewelry. Opens in a new windowwww.liveriga.comRiga Central Market, Latvia
- Take a walk along the Daugava River: The Daugava River is the main waterway in Riga, and it offers stunning views of the city skyline. Take a walk along the riverfront, enjoy a boat ride, or simply relax in one of the many parks along the way. Opens in a new windowwww.travelbreatherepeat.comDaugava River, Riga, Latvia
- Explore the Art Nouveau district: Riga is known for its beautiful Art Nouveau architecture, and the best place to see it is in the Alberta地区. Take a walk through the neighborhood, admire the ornate facades, and visit the Jugendstil Museum to learn more about this unique style. Opens in a new windowchevron_rightwww.liveriga.comJugendstil Museum, Riga, Latvia
- Enjoy a traditional Latvian meal: Latvian cuisine is hearty and flavorful, and there are many restaurants in Riga where you can try it. Be sure to sample some of the local specialties, such as pelmeni (dumplings), pīrāgi (pies), and karbonāde (pork roast).
8. Lyon, France
Culinary Capital with a Historical Heart
Lyon is not just France’s culinary capital but also a city with a rich Roman and Renaissance heritage. Its traboules (hidden passageways), ancient theatre, and bustling food markets offer a deep dive into French culture.
- Explore Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon). This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-see for any visitor to Lyon. With its narrow cobbled streets, Renaissance architecture, and hidden traboules (covered passageways), Vieux Lyon is a charming and atmospheric place to wander around. Be sure to stop at the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, the oldest church in Lyon, and the Place Bellecour, one of the largest squares in France. Opens in a new windowbucketlistbri.comVieux Lyon (Old Lyon)
- Visit the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. This neo-Byzantine basilica sits atop Fourvière Hill and offers stunning panoramic views of the city. The basilica itself is also worth seeing, with its ornate mosaics and stained glass windows. Opens in a new windowen.wikipedia.orgBasilica of NotreDame de Fourvière
- Take a walk through the Parc de la Tête d’Or. This 117-hectare park is a great place to relax and enjoy the outdoors. There is a lake, a zoo, a botanical garden, and even a puppet theater. Opens in a new windowwww.loisirs-parcdelatetedor.comParc de la Tête d’Or
- See a show at the Opéra National de Lyon. This beautiful opera house is one of the most prestigious in France. Even if you don’t see a show, it’s worth taking a tour of the building. Opens in a new windowfr.wikipedia.orgOpéra National de Lyon
- Sample the local cuisine. Lyon is known for its gastronomy, so be sure to try some of the city’s specialties, such as bouchons (traditional Lyonnais restaurants), quenelles de brochet (fish dumplings), and praline tarts. Opens in a new windowchevron_rightwww.auxlyonnais.combouchons (traditional Lyonnais restaurants)
9. Tallinn, Estonia
Digital Innovation and Medieval Charm
Tallinn is a fascinating blend of medieval history and digital innovation. The city’s old town, with its preserved walls and towers, offers a step back in time, while its status as a tech hub adds a contemporary edge.
- Visit the Tallinn Old Town – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a must-see for any visitor to the city. The Old Town is full of charming medieval streets, squares, and buildings, including the Town Hall, St. Olaf’s Church, and the Toompea Castle. Explore the narrow cobbled streets, browse the many shops and cafes, and soak up the atmosphere.Opens in a new windowen.wikipedia.orgTallinn Old Town, Estonia
- Explore the Kadriorg Park – a beautiful park located in the western part of the city. The park is home to Kadriorg Palace, a Baroque palace that now houses the Estonian Art Museum, as well as the Japanese Garden, a peaceful oasis with a variety of ponds, bridges, and sculptures.Opens in a new windowwww.flickr.comKadriorg Park, Estonia
- Take a walk along the Tallinn City Walls – the longest and best-preserved medieval defensive system in Northern Europe. The walls date back to the 13th century and offer stunning views of the city and the sea. You can walk along the entire 2.3 km length of the walls, or just take a short section and enjoy the views.Opens in a new windowwww.visitestonia.comTallinn City Walls, Estonia
- Visit the Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour – a maritime museum located in the former seaplane harbour. The museum houses a collection of historic seaplanes, ships, and submarines, as well as interactive exhibits on Estonian maritime history.Opens in a new windowmeremuuseum.eeLennusadam Seaplane Harbour, Estonia
- Take a day trip to Helsinki – the capital of Finland is just a short ferry ride away from Tallinn. Helsinki is a beautiful city with a lot to offer visitors, including the Suomenlinna Maritime Fortress, the Sibelius Monument, and the Helsinki Cathedral.Opens in a new windowfeaturingfinland.comHelsinki, Finland
10. Innsbruck, Austria
Alpine Adventures and Imperial Elegance
Innsbruck, nestled in the heart of the Alps, is the perfect mix of outdoor adventure and imperial history. Its Habsburg palaces and mountainous backdrop offer a unique urban experience in a natural setting.
- See the Golden Roof (Goldenes Dachl). This magnificent 16th-century building features 2,656 fire-gilded copper tiles that shimmer in the sunlight. Take a guided tour of the interior, which houses the Imperial Apartments and a museum dedicated to Emperor Maximilian I.Opens in a new windowen.wikipedia.orgGolden Roof (Goldenes Dachl) Innsbruck
- Ride the Nordkette cable car to the Seegrube. Enjoy breathtaking views of the city and surrounding mountains from the Seegrube viewing platform. Hike or bike the trails in the area, or visit the Igloo Village for a unique winter experience.Opens in a new windowchevron_rightwww.innsbruck.infoNordkette cable car Innsbruck
- Explore the Hofburg Imperial Palace. This former residence of the Habsburg family is now a museum complex housing several collections, including the Imperial Apartments, the Silver Chamber, and the State Rooms.Opens in a new windowen.wikipedia.orgHofburg Imperial Palace Innsbruck
- Wander through the Altstadt (Old Town). Stroll along the narrow cobbled streets, lined with colorful houses and shops. Be sure to visit the St. Anne’s Column, a Marian column located in the heart of the Old Town.Opens in a new windowchevron_righten.wikipedia.orgSt. Anne’s Column Innsbruck
- Visit the Bergisel Ski Jump. Take a ride to the top of the jump for panoramic views of the city and the surrounding mountains. You can also visit the museum dedicated to the history of ski jumping in Innsbruck.
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Conclusion: Cool Places in Europe to Visit Varied Cool Quotient
These 15 cool places in Europe showcase the continent’s incredible variety, from ancient historical sites to cutting-edge cultural hubs. Whether you’re exploring the digital innovation of Tallinn or the culinary delights of Lyon, each destination offers its own unique blend of experiences, making Europe an endlessly fascinating place to explore.