From festive Christmas markets or glittering beaches, historic landmarks and seasonal experiences in the form of cultural festivals, there’s no denying that Europe offers something for everyone year-round. But as with any destination, there are pros and cons depending on when and where you visit and what you plan to do during your stay.
Here are some of Europe’s most visited places, and the advantages and downsides of each, to inspire your next trip in 2023 and beyond.
With over 19 million visitors every year, London has remained one of the most visited cities for many years, not just in Europe but the whole world. It’s a fantastic stopover for exploring other destinations, since there are several major airports here so flights to and from London are abundant, and there’s plenty of landmarks, tourist attractions and entertainment options to cater to all ages. This cosmopolitan city has an extensive transport network so getting around, whether on the tube, by bus, taxi or rail, is incredibly accessible, and there’s a multitude of cuisines to sample, from street food through to Michelin starred restaurants.
One of the downsides of London is that, as a major city, it’s expensive and your money won’t go as far here as in some other European cities. The huge number of visitors and permanent residents in London means that you’re always faced with traffic and long queues, which may not result in the most relaxing getaway you’ll ever experience. Spring and October are the best times to visit London to avoid the crowds and enjoy the milder weather.
One of the most prestigious and exclusive destinations in Europe, it’s no surprise that so many people flock to Marbella year after year. Due to having some of the mildest winter weather in Europe, an avoidance of high density construction and impeccable infrastructure, Marbella is recognised as a luxurious destination that’s become popular not just for holidays but expats and property investments. In fact, this area won the coveted award for European Best Destination in 2022 and second prize for Best Overall Destination. Marbella is rich in gorgeous beaches and indulgent restaurants, but it also offers a relaxed pace of life.
However, during the summer months, Marbella can become incredibly crowded as people visit to make the most of the amazing weather and coastal views, hitting its peak from June until September. And while the slow pace of life is a benefit for those living here, the leisurely schedule may not work for everyone, with shops often opening at 10am, closing at 2 and then reopening again in the late afternoon.
Rome is widely considered to be one of the most historical and culturally-rich cities in the world, and it’s a popular tourist destination. Equally perfect for a week-long trip or a quick weekend getaway, Rome has a rich history and some of the oldest paintings, sculptures and architecture you’ll find anywhere in the world, not to mention the incredible Italian cuisine that makes it a food lover’s paradise. Rome’s nightlife is renowned, with plenty of thriving bars and clubs to explore, and it’s a haven for shoppers, from local artisans to global fashion brands.
The traffic in Rome is one of this city’s low points, with the road teeming with traffic year-round, especially in the central area of the city. The Termini area around the central station in Rome is also one of the seedier areas, and unfortunately it’s where many of the city’s hotels are based, so it’s worth choosing a hotel a little further out.
Vienna is a beautiful city, thanks to a mix of Art Nouveau, Gothic and Baroque architecture. Filled with charming coffee houses and stunning parks and gardens, Vienna is a particularly popular destination in the winter, where everything looks even more magical. Vienna is a great spot for culture lovers, with a musical past as the birthplace of Mozart and the backdrop to The Sound of Music, and ample museums and galleries to get lost in.
The downside of Vienna is that while winters here are beautiful, they’re also very long, so if you’re not keen on holidaying during colder temperatures, you’re more limited with when you can travel here versus other areas of Europe. Austrian German can also be more challenging to understand, with idiosyncrasies and nuances to the language barrier that can hold tourists back from communicating with the locals.
Berlin offers something for every budget, with affordable accommodation and transport, fantastic street food and cafes, and a bustling nightlife scene. It’s an incredibly creative city with innovation and street art abound, but there’s also plenty of cultural activities here too, including a wide range of fantastic museums and galleries. There’s never a dull moment in this city and it has a thriving, free-spirited ambiance that’s truly addictive. Berlin is also overlooked in favour of cities like Paris and Rome in terms of architecture, but this city still has plenty to offer, from Brandenburg gate to Reichstag Dome.
While summer is amazing in Berlin, winters can be quite stark and less pleasant (Christmas markets excluded), so timing your trip well is the key to a successful holiday. There’s too much to do here for a day trip to be sufficient, so extending your stay to at least three or four days is wise to make the most of your time here. Customer service here is also notoriously bad, which can come as a shock to many tourists.
Europe is awash with beautiful towns and cities to explore, from memorable day trips to weeks away diving into the culture and history of a destination. But as with any location, there are things to consider before jetting off, from the time of year you visit to make the most of your time there to costs and where to stay within the city itself. Doing your research ahead of the trip will ensure you see the destination at its best and avoid being met with unwanted surprises, whether it’s teeming crowds, huge expenses or undesirable hotel settings.