The 20 most voted countries of the European Best Destination 2023 competition have been revealed. Over a period of 21 days, more than half a million travellers from 178 countries voted for their favourite places to visit this year.
More than 400 cities entered the competition, out of which 21 were pre-selected by the organisers based on the cultural and touristic offer of the destinations as well as their quality of life, their sustainable development and growth of popularity on social networks during the past 12 months.
This year’s edition saw the largest ever share of votes coming from outside Europe (52%), with less than half (48%) coming from within. This shows that, more than ever, foreign travellers have a strong interest in travelling to Europe.
The 20 winning cities are named Europe’s best for the year, enjoying a special place on European Best Destination’s website until 31 December, as well as promotion by the project’s media partners.
Without further ado, here are the top European destinations to visit this year. Hopefully you will find inspiration among them for a city break, a sunny vacation, a romantic getaway, shopping, culture or immersion in nature.
1. Warsaw, Poland
Beautiful, friendly, green, open-minded, perfect for a family city break, a cultural city break, a shopping experience, a romantic stay, Warsaw, the European Best Destinations 2023 has something to offer to everyone. Take a walk in its beautiful parks, relax on its city beaches, take advantage of its great gastronomic offer, come at any time of the year and take advantage of its rich calendar of events.
You will be dazzled by its emblematic places such as the Old Town Market Square and its colourful buildings, the Palace of Culture and Science which is the tallest building in Poland, the Łazienki Park and its palaces, pavilions and orangeries. During your stay in the Best European destination 2023 do not miss to stroll in “Krakowskie Przedmieście” the most prestigious street in Warsaw and to visit The Warsaw Barbican, the historic fortifications that once encircled the city.
2. Athens, Greece
The capital of Greece is a must-see destination for many reasons. First of all, it is the cradle of democracy and philosophy. Many assume that the blue of the sea, the incredible landscapes and the beautiful sunlight help spirits escape from everyday life and arise.
Athens is a sophisticated cosmopolitan hub with excellent gastronomic delights, electrifying nightlife, creative vibes and a booming art scene. It is an artistic beacon of the ancient world with spectacular Mediterranean landscapes.
3. Maribor, Slovenia
The city of Maribor is a charming cultural, culinary and educational centre in the north-eastern part of Slovenia. The city’s deep cultural and historical roots date back to the Middle Ages and therefore the old city centre offers a rich heritage and a wealth of genuine experiences. In particular, the locals are proud of their Guinness World Record holder, the oldest grapevine in the world.
Maribor – the European Capital of Culture in 2012 – has a reputation for a happy and hospitable city, hosting numerous international cultural and sporting events throughout the year. Don’t miss the lively atmosphere of summer festivals, and enjoy an active city break just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the city centre on the green Mt. Pohorje. The picturesque natural scenery offers endless opportunities for hiking, biking, skiing, and adrenaline sports.
4. Vienna, Austria
Vienna is an ideal destination for romantics: what better than a horse-drawn carriage ride followed by a visit to the Royal Palaces of Vienna? And in the evening, a waltz to the sound of Strauss’s Blue Danube to transport you to the time of the Empress Sissi? That said, Vienna is also the perfect city for a sparkling, original city break for friends, families, lovers and singles.
The city’s parks classified among the most beautiful city parks in Europe. Its amusement park, “The Prater”, is home to one of the most beautiful Ferris wheels in Europe. It is also considered to be one of the best places for a marriage proposal.
5. Cittadella, Italy
Cittadella is located in the heart of the Veneto Region, in Northern Italy, in a strategic position because it is close to all the most important cities in the area. It is located 60 km from Venice and Verona and only 3h drive from Milan or Florence. From Cittadella you can easily reach both the sea of the Venetian Lagoon and the Dolomite mountains with a daily trip. It is obviously an ideal starting point, given its central position, to visit the Veneto and all of Northern Italy.
Cittadella is not only the most beautiful walled city in all of Europe, but also the best-preserved walled city in all of Europe. Its origin is medieval, its foundation dates back to 1220. This explains the high historical value of its walls, which in 2020 celebrated 800 years of history and foundation. The walls are impressive and are the symbol of all the walled cities in the area because Cittadella is the only walled city in all of Europe to have a medieval walkway, elliptical in shape and completely walkable.
6. Essen, Germany
Essen is the most exciting big city you may not have heard of before. Germany’s third greenest city, Capital of Culture 2010, European Green Capital and pulsating metropolis in the heart of the Ruhr region. Hardly any other German city stands for so many exciting contrasts.
Here, urban trendy districts meet historic old towns, high culture meets street art, lush green meadows and forests meet the incomparable charm of the spoil heaps of former collieries, the UNESCO World Heritage Zollverein meets the magnificent Villa Hügel, the former family seat of the Krupp family, and a high-tech city tour that is unique in the world meets the oldest fully sculptural statue of the Virgin Mary in the world – the Golden Madonna in Essen Cathedral.
Explore the green south along Baldeneysee and the Ruhr valley or the urban north with its industrial culture and the old colliery settlements. Discover the city on around 260 km of cycle paths, by train or bus. In hardly any other large city you can reach so many highlights from the city centre in less than 20 minutes by car. And if you simply want to unwind, enjoy the tranquillity of the central 70-hectare Grugapark or the Baldeneysee leisure paradise with its numerous water sports activities.
7. Veszprém, Hungary
The city of Veszprém, the European Capital of Culture 2023, is wedged between the wooded slopes of the Bakony Hills and the northern shore of Lake Balaton. It is a place of rare and distinct natural and environmental assets and an attractive cityscape. This amazing city has been a meeting place for cultures for a thousand years.
Take your time to explore the contemporary art galleries and experience a diverse creative community’s art through the frequently changing exhibitions. The vibrant music life and the diverse music festivals play an even more significant role in shaping the cultural life of the city. High-quality gastronomy enterprises also make the city inviting: cosy cafés and confectioneries, atmospheric bistros and first-rate restaurants.
8. London, UK
Capital of the United Kingdom, London brings together like no other destination traders, businesspeople, eccentrics, artists, creators, designers and more. Its tourist offer goes well beyond Big Ben, the London Eye and Madame Tussauds, which will always delight young and old. London is also an atmosphere, parks of rare beauty ranked among the most attractive city parks in Europe.
Head for Portobello flea markets and colourful houses that are the backdrop to legendary films like “Notting Hill”. Discover the eccentric and colourful neighbourhood of Camden Town. Stroll between the tidy commercial streets of Regent Street and Oxford Street to the designer, artistic and independent shopping districts of Carnaby Street or Covent Garden; do not miss the gay and LGBTQ district of Soho and marvel at the theatre posters hosting world renowned musicals.
9. Grenoble Alpes, France
Grenoble has an exceptional geographical location, nestled at the heart of emblematic mountain ranges like Vercors, Chartreuse and Belledonne. A pioneer, innovative and inspiring city, the Capital of the Alps is constantly reinventing itself.
It is the ideal destination for an urban and nature-based stay, accessible without a car, offering a subtle balance between culture, living arts, wide open spaces and outdoor activities in winter as in summer (ski touring at ‘Col de Porte’, urban via-ferrata on the foothills of the Bastille, canoeing on the Isère River, paragliding in Saint Hilaire du Touvet, night skiing with breath-taking views of Grenoble).
10. Mannheim, Germany
Mannheim is the exciting city of experiences at the heart of the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region. There’s always something going on here. Pure zest for life, enjoyment, a multicultural flair and a jam-packed event calendar await travellers. Known as the city of squares, Mannheim impresses with a host of architectural treasures: the baroque palace, a historic water tower and an Art Nouveau square.
People from more than 170 nations shape the atmosphere of this university city. The city of culture and festivals attracts everyone from theatre lovers to techno fans, jazz connoisseurs or cinema buffs. While the Reiss-Engelhorn museum complex and Kunsthalle art gallery whisk visitors away into worlds of experiences ranging from the early days of human history to contemporary art, the murals by graffiti artists form an open-air gallery for international street art. The green city on the banks of two rivers combines urbanity with recreational activities in almost entirely untouched natural settings.
11. Porto-Santo, Madeira Islands
This island, little sister of the main island of Madeira, is accessible by plane or by ferry and offers wellness hotels, trendy bars and restaurants, the most beautiful sunsets in Europe, a sunny climate almost all year round. Porto Santo is an invitation to discover paradisiacal beaches, historical heritage and geological exuberance.
Visiting Porto Santo is discovering a golden island, famous for its nine-kilometre sandy beach. The smallest inhabited island of the Madeira Archipelago is only an hour and a half flight away from Lisbon, in the extreme southwest of Europe, 500 km from the African coast and 1000 km from the European continent.
12. Toledo, Spain
Toledo blends eras, styles and identities since it is both one of the best medieval destinations in Europe but also one of the Best Erasmus destinations in Europe, with its famous world-renowned University. A young and historic city, Toledo is authentic and sparkling, traditional and modern.
‘Toledo’ comes from the Latin word “Toletum” which means “fortified population”. Come and discover this city built by the Romans in the 2nd century BC. Located in the centre of Spain, Toledo is within easy reach from Madrid (30 min by train).
13. Faial, Azores
This year go wild and green and experience eco-responsible adventures in the Azores. Greener than Iceland, less expensive, with a more moderate and milder climate, the Azores are a prime destination for lovers of nature, outdoor sports, hiking, but also gastronomy and even for lovers since they are ranked among the best wedding destinations in Europe.
Considered by the European Commission as a European Destination of Excellence (EDEN), Faial has many sweeping landscapes, unique birds and plants and iconic geological formations, all of them surrounded by a magnificent blue, pure and lively sea. With Sao Jorges and Pico they form a triptych of unique and bewitching islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
The biodiversity of Faial is very rich: 855 vascular plant species that can be found throughout the island, 57 of which are endemic (that exist only in the Azores). The sea of Faial is an extraordinary mosaic of colours, shadows, smells, sounds, silences and emotions, and is emblematic in the life forms it holds, such as cetaceans, seabirds, sharks and all other inhabitants.
14. Rhodes, Greece
The island of Rhodes is a perfect destination for lovers of old stones, heritage, fortresses and castles. This sublime medieval city is one of the best preserved in Europe, so do not miss a visit to the Palace of the Grand Master. When visiting Rhodes do not miss the Ancient Acropolis of Lindos, the historic Rhodes Old Town or just relax on Agios Pavlos beach.
Rhodes is one of the most beautiful islands in Greece and certainly one of the most beautiful islands in Europe. It is a perfect destination for any type of travellers.
15. Copenhagen, Denmark
One of the trendiest capitals in Europe awaits you this year. Come and see for yourself: the thrift stores, independent boutiques, the Tivoli Garden ranked among the best amusement parks in Europe, Copenhagen’s legendary canal with its romantic cruises and of course the “Copenhagen Hidden Gems”.
There are a thousand activities and experiences to enjoy in Copenhagen. Taste the local specialties and find out why Copenhagen is home to some of the best restaurants in the world. Copenhagen is also the centre of Craft Beer.
16. Tossa de Mar, Spain
Tossa de Mar is enchanting. Its pine forests very near the sea and medieval walls are a magical setting for a perfect holiday in Europe. Tossa de Mar is one of the best hidden gems of the Costa Brava and one of the most beautiful secret destinations in Spain.
Located just 1h30 from the centre of Barcelona, Tossa de Mar seems unreal: several fine golden sand beaches and a magnificent medieval castle await you. The sweet scent of pine trees is floating in the beautiful fishing village. Tossa de Mar is a destination to put on top of your travel bucket list if you want to discover one of the most beautiful places in Spain and one of the Best Destinations to visit in Europe.
17. Ascona-Locarno, Switzerland
This year stay in Ascona-Locarno and discover a little corner of paradise and one of the Best Places to visit in Europe in 2023. Nature is quiet, beautiful and peaceful. This destination is enriching from a cultural, gastronomic, sporting point of view or even if you are looking for a romantic getaway or a holiday in a city on a human scale with your family.
The Swiss part of Lake Maggiore, surrounded by the towns Locarno, Ascona, Brissago and further small villages, prides itself on its numerous and extraordinary natural beauty spots. Thanks to the enchanting flowers and plants from all 5 continents, the Botanical Garden of the Brissago Island is of major importance. Near the lakeshore and the centre of Locarno lies the Camellia Park with over 900 species, some of which are very rare.
Locarno is recognized worldwide for its International Film Festival, the biggest cultural event in Switzerland and one of the most important ones in Europe. It also has a strong relationship with flowers: lovers of nature are drawn by the spectacular shows of camellias, mimosas and magnolias.
18. Milos, Greece
Treat yourself to a relaxing day on the beautiful beach of Sarakiniko or on the most exclusive beach of Firiplaka. For history lovers, do not forget to visit the Ancient Theatre of Milos and the Milos Archaelogical Museum.
Milos Island was voted among the Best Natural Pools in Europe, Best Beaches in Europe (Sarakiniko Beach and its famous volcanic rocks which offer sunbathers a lunar scenery), Best Sculptures in Europe with the Venus of Milo now exhibited in Paris and discovered by a peasant on the island of Milos in Greece by pure chance. Finally Milos is obviously ranked among the Most Beautiful Islands in Greece.
19. Prague, Czech Republic
If you wake up a little earlier than usual, at 5.30 am-6am, you can walk around Prague before city life starts up again. Discover its markets, cafes and restaurants at dawn, watching the sun rise over the most beautiful monuments of Prague. This little tip will cost you nothing (other than a few hours of sleep) and will allow you to see Prague from a different perspective.
The city ranked among the Best Christmas Markets in Europe, Best destinations to celebrate New Year’s Eve, Best honeymoon destinations in Europe, Best places to propose in Europe and Best Fairy tale destinations in Europe.
20. Sóller, Spain
Sóller is the most beautiful village on the island of Mallorca. Surrounded by mountains, it is quiet, relaxing and perfect for a family holiday. Although the location is isolated, Sóller is well connected to Palma de Mallorca, (30 minutes from the airport ) by many lines of trams and buses. And, if you like nature, hiking, gastronomy, Sóller is for you.
It ranked among the best hidden gems in Europe, Best honeymoon destinations in Europe, Best hidden gems in Spain, but also best cycling destinations in Europe and best destinations to visit by train in Europe (the little train that goes up to the top of the mountain is charming and authentic and will appeal to the whole family). Sóller also ranked among the best places to get retired in Europe.