(Last Updated On: April 6, 2020)
My obsession with exploring Europe in depth began when I was young. I would see pictures of the Eiffel Tower, hear stories about London and Dublin and daydream about the nooks and crannies I had yet to see. My first trip to Europe took me to Prague when I was 21 years old. I was infatuated with the way that the Europeans lived their lives. As though they valued relationships with one another over money. That they played just as hard as they worked. And that they grew up in such historic quarters. After visiting the Czech Republic I was hooked. From that moment on I have made it my mission to explore each European country in depth. And while I haven’t been to every country, my list is growing. These are the top European landmarks that you must make a priority to see.
Top European Landmarks
1. Fisherman’s Bastian – Budapest, Hungary
Fisherman’s Bastion is a lookout terrace and one of the most recognized architectural structures in Budapest. It’s on the Buda side of Budapest and is part of the Buda Castle complex. From here you can see across the Danube over to the Parliament building or visit Matthias Church for a small fee of about $5 (1,500 HUF). If you want to see Fisherman’s Bastion without all of the crowds I suggest heading there around 8 am. Tour buses start bringing people in around 830 am.
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2. Peleș Castle – Sinaia, Romania
The Peleș Castle Complex is located in Sinaia, Romania between Bucharest and Brașov. It was built from 1873-1914 and was once the most important cultural center in Europe. I noticed that while this castle is incredibly beautiful and historic, it lacked crowds of tourists. I’d highly recommend making Peleș a priority to visit before word about it gets out.
The complex opens at 915 am and closes at 5 pm, and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. If you’re driving yourself to the castle there is parking available down the hill from the complex for 20 Lei. Entrance to the complex is free, however, if you want to enter the castle it cost 30 Lei. If you want to take pictures inside the castle you have to buy a separate ticket. While you’re visiting Peleș it’s also worth the visit to Pelișor, which is located up the hill from Peleș.
If you don’t have a car you can take either a bus or train to Sinaia. You can find tickets on Rome2rio. Both the bus and train don’t take you directly to the castle. You will have about a 20+ minute walk uphill to reach the complex.
3. Bran Castle – Bran, Romania
Bran Castle is found in Bran, Romania and is famously known as “Dracula’s Castle”. This castle is open seven days/week from 9 am to 4 pm and from 12 pm to 4 pm on Mondays. If you’re driving to Bran parking is limited but cheap. It costs four Lei/hr to park near the castle entrance. To enter the castle grounds you do NOT need a ticket. There will be a line queuing for tickets so if you don’t intend to enter the castle you can skip this line altogether and just walk along the grounds where there are shops, restaurants, and coffee stands. However, if you do want to enter the castle you’ll need to buy tickets outside the gates before trekking up the steep hill that the castle sits on. It costs 40 Lei to enter the castle.
4. Viscri Fortified Church – Viscri, Romania
The Viscri Fortified Church is part of the Saxon Village of Viscri and forms part of the villages with fortified churches in Transylvania UNESCO World Heritage Site. The church is mostly a tourist attraction but once a month is used by the people of Viscri.
5. Colosseum – Rome, Italy
The Colosseum may perhaps be one of the most famous landmarks in the world. The amphitheater plays a historic role in history for its animal and gladiator fights amongst other things. Construction began in 70 AD and the amphitheater was opened in 80 AD.
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6. Acropolis of Athens – Athens, Greece
The Acropolis is an ancient citadel overlooking the city of Athens. Its most famous structure is the Parthenon a temple dedicated to the Greek Goddess Athena. The Acropolis can be seen at many viewpoints throughout Athens, however, it’s worth it to buy a ticket and make the trek up to the top of the rock yourself. Acropolis hours vary from summer to winter months so make sure to check the website in advance for opening and closing times. I’d recommend visiting right when it opens or a couple of hours before it closes to avoid the insane heat and crowds of tourists that flock there during the middle of the day. You can buy tickets here ahead of time, which allows you to skip the line. I’d also recommend downloading the free app, Rick Steve’s Audio Europe, where you can find a great audio tour as you move through the Acropolis. Don’t forget your headphones!
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7. Lake Bled – Bled, Slovenia
The best European attractions are those that aren’t yet overrun with tourists. And Lake Bled happens to be one of those places. Bled is located in the northwestern region of Slovenia. The Julian Alps serve as a backdrop for this crystal blue lake. A short day trip from Ljubljana (Slovenia’s capital), Bled offers many attractions. Here you can rent kayaks, eat at restaurants, hang out in bars, hike, swim, the options are endless. Plus if you choose to stay the night there are hotels around the lake. There is even a castle you can climb to that overlooks the lake, or you can kaya to the church that sits in the middle of the lake!
8. Plitviče Lakes National Park – Croatia
One of the best tourist attractions in Europe, Plitviče is located in central Croatia, two hours south of Zagreb. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Plitviče is the largest national park in Croatia. Boasting 16 different lakes, waterfalls, and walking trails if you visit Plitviče plan to stay entertained for hours. If you aren’t one for walking you can also opt for an electric boat that will transfer you from lake to lake. For more information on details when visiting Plitviče look here.
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9. Eiffel Tower – Paris, France
One of the most recognized attractions in Europe happens to be in Paris; the Eiffel Tower. When I first saw the Eiffel Tower, I immediately realized what all the hype was about. This structure is so much more glorious in person than I could have ever imagined. Located Champ de Mars you can visit the attraction with the intent to ride the elevator to the top, or grab a bottle of champagne and sit in the park admiring it. Or you can admire it from afar! The Eiffel Tower is well seen around certain parts of the city.
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10. Cliffs of Moher – County Clare, Ireland
These sea cliffs are one of the Europe attractions that you don’t want to overlook. Located in Western Ireland the cliffs overlook the Atlantic Ocean. They are breathtakingly large and run approximately 8-miles long.
11. Sacré-Coeur – Paris, France
The Sacré-Coeur is a Basilica that holds the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is located in the Montmartre district, an artist’s district of winding cobbled streets and knick-knacks found on each corner. Entrance to the church is free, but this is one of the most popular European tourist attractions and there is usually a line.
12. The Louvre – Paris, France
Famous for holding the Mona Lisa, The Louvre is an incredible museum located on the Right Bank of the Seine; Paris’s first district. You can spend hours walking through the Louvre without being able to see it all. There are more than 380,000 objects and 35,000 displays of artwork. Buy a ticket here.
13. London Eye – London, England
The London Eye is a famous Ferris wheel on the south bank of the River Thames. You can admire the eye from afar, or take a ride and cheers with champagne at the top! For more information on the types of experiences you can have and to buy tickets ahead of time, check out the website.
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14. Lake Ohrid – Ohrid, Macedonia
A must-see attraction in Europe is in the city of Ohrid – Lake Ohrid. Lake Ohrid is one of the deepest and oldest lakes in Europe, sandwiched between Macedonia and Albania. It’s an incredibly cheap, quaint town that hasn’t yet been discovered by flocks of tourists. It offers the charm of a coastal Mediterranean town without the crowds, price hikes, and tourist traps. It’s easy to see why the crystal clear water and dramatic cliffs put this lake at the top of my list!
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15. La Sagrada Família – Barcelona, Spain
When I think of the most popular tourist attractions in Europe, La Sagrada Família is oftentimes what first comes to mind. Built by Gaudí, La Sagrada Família is the tallest architectural wonder in Barcelona. Gaudí built this masterpiece to tell the story of Jesus from birth to death. Every single detail was well thought out but unfortunately, Gaudí died before it was finished. To this day there is still construction on the church with predictions that it will be done in 2026. To enter the church you need to buy tickets ahead of time, slots fill up and there is a limit to how many people can visit.
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16. Grand Place – Brussels, Belgium
Grand Place is a market in the heart of Brussels and when you see it you’ll realize why it is named “Grand Place”. Ornately decorated with glitz and gold, Grand Place won “one of the most beautiful squares in Europe” in 2010. It’s been in business since the 10th century and was finally named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. Entrance to Grand Place is free and you can enjoy it at your leisure!
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17. Statue of Jesus – San Sebastián, Spain
This statue of Jesus sits on Urgull, a hill in the Basque Country, an autonomous region in Northern Spain. It overlooks the San Sebastián promenade and the Bay of Biscay. You can get to the Jesus by hiking to the top of the hill.
Truth be told that there are more than 17 “best tourist sites” in Europe. There are endless places to discover both touristy and off the beaten path sites. The top European landmarks mentioned above elicited a feeling in me that can’t be explained. Each of these places changed me and left me with lasting memories. So get out there, explore this incredible world, and start making your list of your favorite European landmarks.