A dazzling continent where epic history meets breathtaking natural beauty, Europe offers an endless range of experiences to discover. Dramatic mountains give way to fairytale castles, pebbled beaches beckon with Mediterranean sunsets, and traditional recipes lay the foundations for mouthwatering cuisine. Our guide to the best places in Europe helps travelers navigate its enchanting landscapes, captivating cities, and priceless traditions.
Located at the eastern edge of the Eurasian landmass, the continent of Europe is defined by its peninsulas—the Iberian and Italian, Scandinavian, and Jutland peninsulas—along with its many islands. The region’s natural assets have made it a dominant economic, social, and cultural force throughout recorded history.
Its soil, forests, and seas provide abundant resources for agriculture and industry, and its people are increasingly the dominant force in its economies. Today’s European Union, established by the Maastricht and Amsterdam Treaties of the 1990s, binds 27 nations together in an effort to create a common structure for their political, economic, and military policies.
For the first time in modern history, the European continent is largely a democratic and free-market society. Its political institutions reflect this, with the EU a key player in the world economy and an important global power.
With a population of just over one-tenth of the world’s, its citizens are highly educated and skilled, providing a high percentage of the services that support advanced manufacturing and service industries. These sectors have come to dominate the world’s economies, while Europe’s once-dominant role in agriculture and heavy industry has declined.
Travelers to Europe are drawn by its rich culture and diverse traditions. Its capitals, such as Paris and London, capture the spirit of a dynamic cosmopolitan nation that is both historic center and modern metropolis. Helsinki, meanwhile, delights design enthusiasts with its Art Nouveau architecture. And in the far north, Tromso offers a glimpse into Norway’s Arctic culture.
The fjords of Finland and Iceland, long and narrow inlets that are carved out by glaciers, also offer a unique look at the continent’s contrasting landscapes.
In many ways, the most memorable experiences in Europe stem from those that happen spontaneously. While it may be tempting to try to see the continent’s best sights in as few days as possible, rushing through your itinerary will only leave you exhausted and short on unforgettable memories. On your next trip, take your time to explore a few major destinations—ideally, three full days in each city, or more if you can. That extra day can make the difference between a memorable visit and a missed opportunity—the kind you’ll always regret.