If you are travel addicted like me you’re probably already scoping out where to jet set to in 2023. Europe is calling me back, but picking a destination isn’t easy. There’s no shortage of breathtaking cities, adventurous landscapes, islands, and beaches to explore. After some hefty research, I have rounded up the 12 best places to visit in Europe for 2023.
I left out the classics of Paris, London, Rome, and Barcelona because you don’t need me to tell you those cities are worth going to. However, I will say that the cities on this list will give the old staples a run for their money and will give you a trip to remember for a lifetime.
Even with it narrowed down to 12, it can still be a tough call. Especially since Europe has so many different types of travel destinations. To make it easier, I’ve broken it down to six different categories:
- Best City Breaks in Europe
- Best Summer Destination
- Best Adventure Destinations
- Best Lesser Known Islands in Europe
- Best Nightlife in Europe
- Best Off the Beaten Path Destinations
The Best City Breaks in Europe
I love traveling to cities because you can people watch, eat amazing food, and learn about a place’s history just by walking around. But cities can often be the most traveled to places, filled with touristy spots and just loads of people. Luckily, Porto and Rijeka still seem to be on the lighter side in terms of tourism.
1. Porto, Portugal
Porto the second largest city in Portugal and a UNESCO world heritage site. Located where the Douro river and the Atlantic ocean meet, this city is a dream for the romantic types who like to get lost in the weaving side streets with clotheslines hanging from windows above.
While the old-world charm is definitely a huge draw, outside of the historic center you’ll find a contemporary culture that’s deeply rooted in the arts and cultural scenes. If you are foodie, allegedly Porto has some of the best eateries in all of Europe!!
2. Rijeka, Croatia
Croatia has become somewhat of a European hot spot for travelers. While most people head to Dubrovnik, Split, or Zagreb there’s another Croatian city that is emerging as the top place to visit in Europe.
Rijeka is Croatia’s busiest port city. With its glittering shoreline on the Adriatic sea and baroque architecture, it’s hard not to see why people are starting to flock here.
Rijeka has everything that makes a European city great. There’s Corzo, the main drag where you can go shopping, or simply to see and be seen and incredible beaches that will make you wonder why you hadn’t come here sooner. Plus there are endless amounts of history and culture to discover, including a pretty impressive castle.
The Best European Summer Destinations
Who doesn’t crave a summer in the sun, near turquoise blue waters? Among the Mediterranean, Adriatic, Marmara, Baltic, there are many incredible seaside destinations in Europe to choose from. I’ve narrowed it down to two best summer destinations to visit in Europe in 2023: Parikia, Paros Greece and the Adratic Coast of Puglia, Italy.
3. Parikia, Paros Greece
Greece has been a long-standing European summer destination for sun worshipers. With over 200 Islands, there’s no shortage of sandy beaches, white-washed houses, and turquoise waters.
While Mykonos and Santorini steal most of the limelight, Paros is my top pick.
The biggest city in Paros, Parikia has the perfect balance of incredible beaches, picturesque streets with classic white buildings and blue shutters, and thriving nightlife.
While it’s been a popular destination for European holidayers, you won’t have to fight the mass tourism that hits the more commercial islands. Besides lots of beach time, there are plenty of excursions that you can take from Parikia too to explore nature reserves and ancient ruins.
4. The Adratic Coast of Puglia, Italy
Picture this: you’re staying in white-washed rustic villages with rocky shorelines, taking a dip in the perfect swimming cove, eating endless gelato, and surrounded by perfectly bronzed Italians. This could be your life next summer if you pick Puglia as your next European spot to visit!
The entire Adriatic coast of the “heel” region in Italy is dotted with small villages that are each worth a visit.
I recommend splitting your time between two of these towns: Polignano a Mare, Gallipoli, Santa Cesarea Terme, Vieste, or Taranto. Plus save some time to head inland to explore the iconic cone-shaped houses of Trulli, it’s definitely worth missing some beach time for.
Best Places to Visit in Europe for Adventure Lovers
There are plenty of European destinations that will tick all of the boxes for adventure lovers. However, Iceland and the Norwegian Fjords are the two that made it on this list of best places to visit in Europe in 2023.
If you are after rugged landscapes, hiking volcanos, and taking a dip in the hot springs, Iceland is the best European destination for you. The country has one highway that makes a complete ring around the country, making it the perfect destination for a road trip.
Fly into Reykjavik, rent a jeep and head out. Go there between September-March if you want a chance at spotting the northern lights.
The places you want to make sure to hit on your Icelandic journey are:
- Thingvellir National Park
- Silfra Snorkeling Pond — find snorkeling tours on GetYourGuide
- Reykjadalur Hot Spring Thermal River
- Kerid Crater Lake
- Geysers of Haukadalur Valley
- Gullfoss Falls
When you’ve made it back to Reykjavik, head to the world-famous blue lagoon to soak in the baby blue waters of the hot springs.
6. The Norwegian Fjords
Imagine waking up in a tent surrounded by the forest, with only the sound of birds and rushing water in the distance. This is what it’s like to go wild camping in the Norwegian Fjords.
A Fjord is a Viking word that means ‘where you travel across’ but the locals use it to refer to a region with U-shaped valleys and impressive peaks all around. When you are in the Fjord region you can learn to kayak, challenge yourself to an epic hike, or relax and take in the natural surroundings in one of the sleepiest towns along the water.
This is one of the absolute best places to visit in Europe for people with adventurous hearts.
Check out Norway’s most famous Fjords here
European Island Destinations for 2023
I’m always craving an island vacay, so of course I had to make a list just for the best European island to visit in 2023.
If you Sicily or Capri were the only island destinations in Europe, think again.
Off the coast of mainland Spain, you’ll find quite a few islands competing for your attention.
Most people head to Mallorca for its historic old town and diverse landscapes or hit the party scene in Ibiza. However, there’s one less touristic island that has made it to the top of my 2023 travel bucket list: Menorca.
The smaller lesser explore counterpart of Mallorca, Menorca is an incredible European destination choice for 2023. It has an abundance of nature, quaint seaside towns, and of course sun-drenched beaches.
Sandwiched between Italy and Northern Africa is Malta, an Island country that doesn’t get as much recognition as it truly deserves. Its capital city Valletta is the absolute best destination to visit in Europe to get the best of both history and breathtaking beaches.
With its impressive limestone baroque architecture, Valletta has been referred to as an open-air museum. You won’t even need to step inside a museum to see the world-famous artist Caravaggio’s work, because the co-cathedral proudly hosts the artist’s paintings.
Best Nightlife Destinations in Europe
Some travel for culture, others travel for the partying. Europe has some of the world’s best nightlife. If dancing till the wee hours of the morning to electronic music, spending the day at open-air parties, and mingling with some of the world’s coolest club kids is your ideal holiday then these are the European hot spots you need to check out.
9. Berlin, Germany
With most clubs opening on Thursday and staying continuously open till Monday, Berlin has made a name for itself in the world of nightlife. Some of the most famous DJs call the city home and play regularly at various clubs.
The lines to get into clubs like Berghain, Sysiphous and Katerblau can be upwards of 3-4 hours. You’ll want to be prepared before interacting with some of the toughest bouncers in the world. Know which DJs are playing and dress the part if you want a chance to enter these world renowned clubs.
10. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam is undoubtedly one of Europe’s best nightlife destinations. The liberal culture and welcoming Dutch people make for a city that truly lives up to its party reputation. From the mainstream clubs that play euro-pop and top 40 to live music halls and underground techno venues, there’s a variety of different types of clubs and venues that fit every taste.
To find Amsterdam’s best parties, head to a pub beforehand and ask the locals. The Dutch are notoriously friendly and there’s a good chance you’ll be invited to tag along to a “need-to-know” party with a crowd that almost feels too cool.
Europe’s Best Off the Beaten Path Destinations
Sometimes it’s nice to go somewhere that’s completely “new,” a destination that’s not flooding my Instagram feed. It’s so easy to get caught up going to the places that are considered the best, but Europe has endless options for off-the-beaten-path travel destinations that are 100% worth visiting.
11. Tbilisi, Georgia
The capital city of Georgia, Tbilisi has become one of the hottest destinations for people looking for lesser-explored cities to visit in Europe.
Tbilisi is one of the oldest cities in the world, dating back to 4,000 BC. There is so much history to explore.
The city has been home to a diverse range of cultural, ethnic, and religious backgrounds, giving it a unique and quirky architectural makeup. From Eastern Orthodox churches, ornate art nouveau buildings, and Soviet Modernist structures, Tbilisi has one of the most unique (and colorful) skylines in the world.
12. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Move over Prague and Budapest! There’s another eastern European city that is vying to become the hottest destination in the east: Ljubljana, Slovenia.
If you like to be the one among your friends to discover the coolest travel destinations first, move this city to the top of your list before it’s all over Instagram.
With a castle set on top of a lush green hill overlooking the town below, Ljubljana is like something out of a Disney movie. It’s known to be the greenest city in Europe, both for its landscapes and its eco-credentials. Most of the old city is entirely pedestrian-only which just adds to the fairytale-esque atmosphere of the city.
Make 2023 The Year of Exploration
I hope that this list of the best places to visit in Europe has inspired you to make 2023 your year of exploration.
Get out there and tick off a few of your travel bucket lists, be it an adventure around Iceland, or wandering the streets of Porto.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all my adventures in life so far, it’s that you’ll never regret taking a trip somewhere. Now, for the hard part, deciding which place in Europe to visit first.