It may not be the most budget-friendly areas of the world to travel, but there’s no doubt Western Europe holds some serious treasures that have to be explored at least once in a lifetime.
And here’s the best 50 that I think you should visit!
A mix of flagship cities chock full of history, as well as beautiful natural landscapes where you can hike, ski and soak in the views, I’ve tried to include a medley of slightly predictable and iconic destinations (perfect if it’s your first time visiting Europe), along with some wilder and less-visited gems too.
And let’s not forget that, as with all boundaries, the concept of Western Europe is fluid – with a combination of southern as well as northern, islands as well as countries, being thrown in the offering here.
I’ve broken the list down by country, so you can easily navigate them, but it’s all up for debate!
So why not check out my list of the 50 best places to visit in Western Europe and then leave your own recommendations or disagreements in the comments box at the end of the article – I’d love to get your input!
Oh and if you want to start planning how to get between these top destinations I list, don’t forget to use kiwi.com, my one-stop shop for finding the best travel deals across boat, train, bus or plane.
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So we kick off this list with the mighty France!
From coast to mountains, history to wine, this large country packs a mean old punch, mostly thanks to the diversity of its regions…
Coming in at number 1 on this list of the best places to visit in Western Europe, it has to be Paris.
France’s capital and the city of love, it’s impossible not to be bowled away by this incredible city, which can literally leave you feeling like you’re walking through a movie set at times.
Check out my list of the best things to do in Paris on a budget here, but don’t miss the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc De Triomphe or the Sacre Coeur.
#2 Mont Blanc & The Alps
And from France’s largest city to its largest natural landscape, there’s no question the towering giant of Mont Blanc has to be seen to be believed.
The highest mountain in the Alps and the EU, the epic 170km Tour Du Mont Blanc is one of the best hiking experiences there is to have in Western Europe.
In fact, it’s often named one of the top 10 hikes in the world.
Now I know it crosses through Italy and Switzerland too, but I’ve put it under France just for the ease, ok?!
And if you fancy heading to this glorious area in winter too, then I highly recommend the Alpine resort of Morzine-Avoriaz. Also great for cycling in the summer, read all about my time learning to ski there in this article.
#3 Alsace Region
Over in the east of France, the beautiful region of Alsace, which straddles the German border, is like something from a fairytale.
Ancient and incredibly well-preserved Medieval towns, that look like something out of Disney movie (in fact I think Beauty and Beast was based in one of these towns), are surrounded by epic vineyards that make some of the country’s best wine.
Cycling through the wineries to taste the amazing produce, whilst enjoying the chocolate box appeal and Christmas market glory of the Alsace towns, should not be missed.
The capital of the region, Strasbourg, is also a gorgeous place in Western Europe to explore, not least for its spectacular Cathedral, which is the 6th tallest church in the world.
Learn more about visiting Strasbourg Cathedral and this city, in the complete guide I wrote.
And now we move to the north of France and one of the most culturally distinct regions of the country, Normandy.
Famous for its D-Day landing beaches as well as the epic island monastery of Mont St Michel, don’t miss Normandy for the cider and cheese it produces either!
This part of France is ideal for road tripping, as remote villages and a rural way of life can leave you feeling a sense of freedom and slower pace of existence that it’s often hard to grasp in this part of the world.
And now we move off mainland France to the beautiful island of Corsica – a stunning Mediterranean destination, which boasts beautiful nature and more epic hiking.
Swim on pristine beaches, explore hilltop villages or hike the wonderful but arduous G-20 trail (which has you walking the length of the island and camping in mountain huts over 2 weeks) – the choice is up to you!
#6 Verden Gorge
And last on this France section is one of my favourite places to visit in Western Europe when it comes to natural beauty.
Yes, the Verden Gorge – France’s deepest gorge situated in central Provence – is a huge natural playground of turquoise waters, soaring limestone cliffs and pine forests, where you can hike, swim, bird watch, road trip or kayak as much as you want!
And now we move southwards and head onto Spain – a hot land of lazy lunches, dazzling cities, beautiful beaches, remote mountains as well as siestas and fiestas!
The Spanish capital is often overlooked by travellers to Spain, but I definitely rate it as one of the best places to visit in Western Europe.
3 days is a great amount of time to explore the historic parts of this city and its many parks and colourful bars, as well as day trip outside the capital too.
Learn more in my ideal Madrid itinerary.
Next up, it’s Spain’s most popular city, the beguiling Barcelona.
Situated in the north of the county, on the coast, in the fiercely independent Catalan region, this Gaudi-infused metropolis combines amazing beaches with incredible architecture and a lot of fun!
Check out my guide about how to visit Barcelona a budget for more ideas.
And now we head back to another island (look I’m an island girl, so I’ve always got a soft spot for them) and although there’s a lot to choose from when it comes to Spain – all those Canary ones for starters – I’ve gone with one of the Balearic Islands on this list.
But don’t think it’s all brits abroad and inclusive resorts if that’s your fear!
Nope, Mallorca has definitely had a revamp of late and the natural attractions, hiking and black sand beaches of this destination certainly make it stand out!
Here’s my 13 top tips for travelling to this gem of an island.
An absolute dead-cert on this list of the top places to visit in Western Europe, Valencia is a treat of a Spanish city.
With an amazing ambience and architecture that seamlessly combines the old and the new, Valencia is a living, working and breathing city that’s very much alive.
It’s ideal weekend break material too, with a nice beach thrown in if you want a mix of city and coast.
#11 Andalusia Region – Seville, Granada, Ronda, Cadiz
And last on this Spanish section, it’s the formidable region of Andalusia!
Now I know it’s a bit of a copout, but I honestly couldn’t choose between the destinations in this region, so I decided to put them all together.
Yup, called it!
From the amazing cities of Seville and Granada to the epic beaches and kitesurfing opps of Cadiz, this whole region is a feast for the culture vultures, active adventurers and strong sightseers among you.
Get involved with this ideal 10 day Andalusia itinerary I put together.
And now we move to Portugal on this list of the 50 best places to visit in Western Europe.
A country that’s wildly underrated in my opinion, not least because it’s one of the cheapest in the region!
Come on, find me someone who doesn’t fall in love with Lisbon?!
Chockfull of great tiles, progressive vibes, beautiful day trips, delish food and gorg rooftop bars, this city is impossible not to fall in love with.
Ride the trams, marvel at the Torre de Belem, visit Sintra and get lost amongst the street art and ceramic shops – it’s all there for the taking!
Discover my list of the top 21 things to do in this fabulous capital here.
Next up, it’s Portugal’s second city and the one to head for if you’re into wine and bridges!
The perfect complement to Lisbon, this small and manageable destination makes an excellent short break too.
Cruising the river here, exploring the historic districts, eating your weight in Pasteis de Nata and visiting that insta-famous library – Livraria Lello – are just some of the treats that lie in store!
Check out my list of the top 17 things to do in this city here.
Ok, yes we’re back to the islands, but trust me, if you go to Madeira you’ll see why it’s on this list.
Authentic traditional culture, spectacular hiking, delicious wines and a relaxed atmosphere ooze from this island, which also boasts beautiful volcanic beaches, natural swimming pools, quaint hilltop villages and some spectacular lookouts… what’s not to love?!
Check out my list of the top 21 things to do in Madeira here.
And finally, we reach Lagos.
Situated on the Algarve coast, in the south of Portugal, Lagos is the perfect spot for budget and solo travellers, with tons of hostels and fun beach days meaning meeting people and making friends is easy.
And with your new friends, exploring cliffs, enjoying boat rides, kayaking, wandering the old town, swimming and SUP-ing are just some of the things you can get up to!
If you’re looking for some seaside time in Western Europe, this place certainly gets my vote!
Is Malta western Europe?
It is for the purposes of this list!
Gozo is a small island in the Malta archipelago and for everyone I know whose visited this country, Gozo is the one they prefer.
Chock full of history, and with far less of the package tourists than the main island, this spot is ideal for those looking to get away from crowds a little.
Salt pans, cliffs, diving, hiking, beaches and temples are just some of the treats that lie in store here; they absolutely make it one of the best places to visit in Western Europe in my opinion.
And now we move north, up the map to the country of Belgium.
A small country sandwiched between France, the Netherlands, Germany and Luxembourg, Belgium is home to the EU and a wide variety of languages!
It’s an old classic, but it still charms the crowds, yes Bruges is probably the flagship city in Belgium’s tourist crown and gets crazy busy with visitors at most times of the year, but especially in the summer holidays and the lead-up to Christmas.
A small historic city, Bruges can easily be enjoyed in a weekend when you can wander the cobbled streets to your heart’s desire as you eat your weight in waffles and drink high-strength beer like there’s no tomorrow.
Except there is a tomorrow, so please drink responsibly!
The kingpin attraction is the Bruges Belfry, but you can discover more things to do in this city, care of this handy Bruges travel guide I wrote.
And just next door to Belgium, it’s the Netherlands, home to the tulip, the clog, the windmill, the no-gear bike and several other stereotypes.
One of my favourite cities in Western Europe, I know Amsterdam can be something of a stag-do, stoner space, but it’s also a wonderful city full of vibrant culture, beautiful canals, some great museums and lots of history.
I find it endlessly charming (once you move beyond the tacky red light district) as well as effortlessly laidback.
In the summer it’s a truly gorgeous spot.
Learn more in my perfect guide to 72hrs in Amsterdam.
And continuing north into the coldest and, let’s be honest, most expensive part of Western Europe, here’s my list of those top places you need to visit in Scandinavia…
The Danish capital is probably most famous, kind of weirdly, for its Little Mermaid statue, a tribute to the famous author Hans Christian Anderson.
But you also shouldn’t miss the Tivoli Gardens, Rosenborg Castle or the colourful buildings in Nyhavn in this city.
And now we nip across to Sweden for the next destination on this list of the best places to visit in Western Europe.
Stockholm’s Old Town is the heart of the action, dating back to the 1200’s, but the Royal Canals and Palace, stack of museums and huge City Park are also great attractions.
A cool city, both in terms of climate and atmosphere, Stockholm should certainly not be missed.
And moving on to Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenburg can easily be visited in a day, perhaps as part of a short detour from Germany when it’s quickly reached by ferry.
Once there, don’t miss the cafes, canals and street food in this cool, waterfront city, which can easily be enjoyed on foot.
With far less tourist crowds than the capital of Sweden, Gothenburg also feels wonderfully authentic.
Use the very handy Gothenburg Pass to visit the top attractions in this city for less.
#22 Norwegian Fjords
If you’ve ever even looked at travel content on Instagram in the last few years, it’s likely you’ve seen a good few pictures of the Norwegian Fjords… and who can blame those photographers?!
About as epic and dramatic as it gets in Western Europe, hiking and boating around these glacial-eroded valleys is the bees’ knees, to put it politely.
There’s too many fjords to list them all here, but the most popular are Geirangerfjord, Aurlandsfjord, Nærøyfjord, Lysefjord, Romsdalsfjord, Nordfjord, Sognefjord, Hardangerfjord, and Trollfjord.
They cover a large area, so you’ll need to pick your fjord before you set out!
And located in fjordland, Bergen is probably a place you’re likely to find yourself when exploring these epic natural scars.
Norway’s second city, after the capital Oslo, Bergen is a quiet, cute and quaint place filled with traditional houses and a UNESCO-listed ancient wharf dating back to the 12th century.
It’s the perfect base in this part of the country and a must-visit Scandinavian destination.
#24 Finnish Lapland
And last but least for this Scandinavia section, you can’t miss Finnish Lapland.
The stuff of festive fables, this destination is famous for its northern lights spectacle, which can be seen during the winter months of this northern Arctic region.
Learn about the indigenous Sami Culture or go summer hiking in this otherworldy location, whose unique features span both the human and natural landscape.
Learn about how to visit the notoriously expensive area of Finnish Lapland for less here.
And from the north to the south, now we move to Greece.
Divided from much of Western Europe by the Balkans, I’ve still decided to include Greece in this because it’s treasure are just too great to miss out!
Seat of the ancient world and home to more ancient sights than you can shake a stick at, the massive capital of Athens is a must-see destination for history buffs everywhere.
The Acropolis is top of the list of course, but eating, drinking, museum-ing, watching the changing of the guard and enjoying the street art also make for a great city that combines the old and the new.
Learn more about experiencing Athens the local way in this post.
Totally different to Athens, but certainly a hit favourite when it comes to places to visit in Western Europe, Meteora is an epic rock formation in central Greece.
It is home to one of the largest and most precariously built collection of Orthodox Monasteries and is a UNESCO-listed destination.
The nearby towns of Kalambaka and Kastraki are the most common places to stay for those who want to visit these rock-top perched religious buildings or who want to enjoy rock-climbing in this unique landscape.
#27 Ionion Islands
And of course, I couldn’t get through this list and not mention at least some of the Greek Islands… the hard part is choosing which ones!
Which is why I lumped for a group of islands to try and spread the love, because there’s no doubt these magical drops in the ocean take some beating.
There are 7 main Ionion Islands, as well as heaps of smaller ones; the most famous of which is probably Zante, but all are magnificent.
This Mediterranean island is such a delight.
Forget resorts and packed beaches, there’s a lot more to see here, especially if you get off the beaten track or into the mountainous centre.
Europe’s last divided capital, Nicosia provides travellers with an incredibly unique experience as you can cross, on foot, between the northern and southern parts of this island.
Learn about the history that divided Cyprus, check out the political street art, as well as the green line still manned by UN peacekeepers, and revel in the differences and similarities in the 2 cultures that span this city.
If you’re looking to get a dose of the med while in Western Europe, it’s hard to go beyond Cyprus in my opinion, which fuses its beaches and food with Greek influences and even a slight detection of the Middle East – after all, Lebanon is just a stone’s throw away.
More chilled out and less-resorty than some of the more well-known destinations in Cyprus, Protaras boasts a glorious beach and the amazing Cape Greco Forest National Park on its doorstep – complete with lovely walking trails and dramatic clifftop views.
Fig Tree Bay – and the smaller coves around here – offer some of the most glorious coastal experiences in this region of the world.
If you do head here, I strongly recommend hiring a car so you can get around.
Just read my post on everything you need to know about driving in Cyprus first.
The land of mountains, castles and classical music, Austria is a grand old master in Western Europe and should not be missed, especially if you’re into hiking, architecture, coffee or all 3!
It’s a touristy classic, but it still packs a mean punch, yes Vienna is about as full of historic palaces and amazing architecture as it gets in Western Europe.
Don’t miss out on the Opera, the coffee culture or any of the grand and stately buildings.
If you’re moving onto Eastern Europe, check out this post about how to travel from Vienna to Budapest.
Known as a city of culture, and full to the brim with churches, this small city nestled in the foot of the Alps can actually be visited in a day if you’re short on time….
… and it’s well worth it!
The home of Mozart and the staging of several Sound of Music sights, the old town here is UNESCO-listed and much of the original Baroque architecture remains wonderfully intact.
The ancient fortress in Salzburg, which dates from 1077, dominates the city and shouldn’t be missed for the views and museums.
And from Salzburg, you can then enjoy several day trips in the surrounding area, the most popular of which is probably to Hallstatt.
Another insta-famous town with definite fairytale feels, the lakeside setting and historic features of this destination make it very touristy.
But come on, when you see how pretty this place is, it’s probably a price worth paying!
And now we move onto the Emerald Isle, that is the beautiful land of Ireland.
Home to some epic landscapes, strong cultural identity, great cities and brilliant pubs, road tripping this country is the best way to take it all in, trust me!
The country’s capital, Dublin makes a perfect weekend break, when the full fun-force of this city can be felt.
Aside from the number of bars and brilliant leprechaun inspired souvenirs, you can’t miss Dublin Castle, the Cathedrals, Phoenix Park and, of course, the many streets and venues filled with live music.
A harbour city on Ireland’s west coast, Galway is certainly one of the top places to visit in Western Europe thanks to its historic squares, winding streets and Atlantic ocean charm!
Although it doesn’t contain a huge number of tourist attractions, it’s the feel of the place that makes Galway special – a destination where you can soak in the real culture of this country around every corner.
We move back into mountain territory now as we journey on to another great Alpine destination – the one and only (and very expensive) Switzerland.
Whichever way you look at it, this country is not one for those with small pockets, but splurge for a few days and the hiking, skiing and scenic opportunities of this place are second to none.
It was hard to choose the best places I recommend visiting in Switzerland, but first up I’ve settled on Lucerne, simple because of its lakeside setting, amazing Medieval architecture and snow-capped backdrop.
Gosh this is starting to sound familiar now isn’t it!
A mecca for snowboarders, there’s more good mountains around here than you can shake a ski pole at.
Which, it turns out, is quite a lot.
Situated between 2 lakes in the middle of the county, Interlaken is the epicentre of outdoor activities with so much glorious nature around, it would be kinda rude not to take advantage!
Epic train rides through this dazzling landscape, as well as boat tours, hiking, waterfall trips, castle sightseeing and cave days all combine to absolutely make this one of the top places to visit in Western Europe.
And now we move onto a country that’s a personal favourite among mine in Western Europe, seemingly against the odds.
Not having the mainstream draw of coast and cuisine in the same way France, Spain and Italy do, Germany is, nevertheless, a completely underrated travel destination in my opinion and here’s why…
The coolest capital in Europe, if not the world, anything goes in Berlin which is why it’s so effortlessly fun.
Small on big attractions, except perhaps the museums and Brandenburg Gate, this capital is big on the small things – fun and frolics!
Discover the best ways to visit Berlin on a budget here.
Up in the north of Germany, Hamburg is a historic, harbour city that’s very popular and pretty.
Full of canals and great street, art, you can enjoy sunsets over Lake Alster here before you enjoy the nightlife at Sternschanze.
Next up on this list of the best places to visit in Germany (which I found very hard to keep short btw), it’s Munich – the capital of Bavaria in the south and home to the famous Oktoberfest.
I’d actually avoid visiting the city at this time if I were you (controversial I know, but there it is) and instead plan your trip for either the spring or summer to enjoy the historic centre, the wealth of museums on offer, the food markets and, of course, a beer hall or 3 at their best!
#40 Black Forest
And now we move on to the west of Germany, where the beautiful Black Forest region provides some of the country’s top hiking as well as thermal spa experiences.
Personally, I loved the student city of Freiburg best – wonderfully green and with a lovely, youthful atmosphere, this very relaxed, small city is the perfect base if you want to explore more of the region via 4 wheels, 2 wheels or 2 feet.
The university city of Heidelberg is also an excellent option in this area.
Oh come on, you didn’t think I could get through this list of epic spots to travel to in Western Europe and not mention Italy did you?
Well, if you did, you’d be wrong because, yes, like just about everyone else on the face of this earth, I love this country!
Here’s my top picks…
The capital of the county and so full of iconic giants it’s hard to keep track, you just have to go to Rome at least once in your life and that’s that.
Pantheon was my fav FYI.
Don’t miss the Vatican either.
Also. Avoid the summer – very hot, too many tourists and a lot of mosquitoes.
Get more top tips for seeing Rome, without the crowds and spending a fortune, here.
Next up it’s Florence, a city in the north of Italy, which you can combine with Pisa, Luca, Cinque Terre and even Milan if you have the time and good fortune.
Home to the amazing Duomo Cathedral and most famous of Art Galleries, the Uffizi, Florence is a must for culture vultures and Italian lovers everywhere.
Next we head to the south of Italy and to an amazing region that is still a little under the tourist radar.
Postcard-pretty, with a gorgeous coastline, stunning towns, amazing food and history galore, you’ll need at least a week to just scratch the surface of all there is to do in Puglia.
But with the diversity and views it offers, it’s undoubtedly one of the best parts of the country to enjoy.
And talking of the Amalfi Coast, I really thought this guy deserved his own mention on this list, so here he is, with Positano coming in at number 45.
Complete with pebble shoreline, pastel-coloured houses and stunning hiking trails that lead along the coastline, this is a popular destination certainly lives up to the hype… if you don’t mind a few crowds!
And last but not least from this Italy section, we come to Sicily – the wonderful island at the foot of the county that promises glorious weather, fab beaches and coastline, as well as a range of amazing historic sights, hiking opps, sensational food and a bit of volcano action thrown in for good measure…
… what’s not to love?!
And finally, we make it to the nation grouping of my homeland, the good old UK.
It may be rainy and grey a lot of time, but trust me, after a recent staycation year in and around this fabulous island (thanks corona) I’ve got to say, the UK is certainly much more impressive than I’d perhaps ever realised…
… I’m being serious!
If you want to know why, then check out my list of the top 50 things to do in the UK here.
Of course, we have to get London in here.
One of the world’s greatest cities, full of amazing things to see, do, eat, visit and learn, there’s no question London is about as diverse and dazzling as it gets.
#47 Gower Peninsula
Done with England for now, we move to the next nation in the UK and that is Wales.
Again, stunningly beautiful in a way I never knew or appreciated until the pandemic forced me to explore closer to home – at least you were good for one thing rona! – Wales is a triumph.
From Snowdonia National Park to the Brecon Beacons, Pembrokeshire to the Wye Valley, there’s so many epic Welsh places I could have put on this list it’s not funny.
But I settled for the Gower Peninsula.
Combining coast with cliffs, epic walking, cute villages and great hunks of ancient myth, there’s nowhere quite like the Gower!
Here’s my guide to camping in this epic part of the UK.
#48 Scottish Highlands
And yet another country in the UK – yes I know, it’s a confusing situation – Scotland in the north packs another mean punch if you’re into epic, wild remote landscapes as well as some top views and great hiking.
The highlands here are hard to beat for all of the above, plus the odd castle and whiskey tasting experience thrown in.
#49 Lake District
Now we return to England for our penultimate entry on this list of my fav places in Western Europe and it goes, of course, to the amazing Lake District.
Having inspired many an artist, poet and writer, the Lake District is about as wild as it gets in merry old England and the mostly bleak weather that hangs out here only adds to the fun.
Yes, that’s right, you’ve got to embrace it all if you want to get under the skin of this place.
Thanks to the camping and hiking opportunities here, there’s no question this part of England is absolutely one of my top destinations for budget travellers in the UK.
Don’t miss hiking Helvellyn, Scarfeel Pike or Catbells during your time here!
#50 Channel Islands
And finally, we make it to my homeland more specifically – the group of islands in the English Channel that are technically part of Great Britain but also independent jurisdictions in their own right.
I know, as if it wasn’t baffling enough with Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, she goes and throws in another curveball. Tch.
Anyway, I digress, the Channel Islands straddle the divide of England and France bringing parts of both of these countries together and also adding their own unique flair.
Yes, it’s really as weird and old school down here as it sounds, in an absolutely brilliant way of course!
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And there you have it, my mega list of the 50 best places to visit in Western Europe.
Which have you visited and which were your favourites?
Which have you still got to cross off your list and which ones are near the top?
Tell me all in the comments box below…