Europe has some of the most beautiful capital cities in the world. All of them offer a combination of rich history, grand architecture, sprawling parks, and exquisite artwork. Putting this list of European capital cities together was not easy, as there are so many to choose from, but we wanted to highlight the ones that are the most popular as well as the ones we have visited personally.
Taking a tour through Europe at least once in your life is on everyone’s bucket list and choosing which European capitals to explore can be a difficult task. But this collection of the best capital cities should definitely help.
Table of Contents
Top European Capital Cities
We’re not playing favorites with our list. They’re in a random order, and all cities provide plenty of adventure and beauty. Make sure you add these 14 European capital cities to your bucket list.
1. London, England
The Population of London, England: 8,962,000
This lively European capital city plays host to millions of tourists each year and there are so many reasons to add it to your bucket list. London has a great food scene, famous museums, huge parks, and much more. It’s got everything you would want in a European capital city.
When you visit, one of the more touristy things to do is to hop on a New Routemaster. These famous double-decker red buses allow you to experience a historic vehicle and it makes for some great photos too.
You’ve got many sights to choose from such as Big Ben, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and so many more. After viewing the sights, you have to head into a pub for the nightlife. London’s strategic location makes it easy to explore the rest of Europe quickly.
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2. Dublin, Ireland
The Population of Dublin: 1,173,000
The city of Dublin provides vibrant nightlife. You can visit an Irish pub and watch live Irish music performances any day of the week. It’s a great city to meet new friends and discover an interesting history. However, Dublin has more going for it than its nightlife and pubs.
You can also visit sites like the Spire of Dublin, which stands proudly in the heart of the city. The stainless-steel structure is something to see as it stands at over 120 meters tall. You also can’t miss Dublin’s Ha’Penny Bridge which you’ll find on the front of many postcards and you must make your way to Croke Park. Ireland’s largest stadium and the third biggest in all of Europe!
If you want to travel back in time and learn more about the history of Dublin you can visit Dublin Castle. The castle served as headquarters for the English since the 13th century. Ireland claimed the castle in 1922 following their independence. It remains a major government complex to this day. Dublin has plenty of great things to offer. If you’re into pub life, add this European Capital to the top of your list.
3. Amsterdam, the Netherlands
The Population of Amsterdam: 860,000
Amsterdam provides healthy food, outdoor entertainment, and other exciting perks. You can walk or cycle around their famous canal system. Whichever way you choose to explore it is an unforgettable experience.
Amsterdam’s canal system runs right through the city stretching more than 100 kilometers. The canal is a vital transportation method in the city to this day. Whether you walk, bike, or ride in a boat, keep your eyes open for monuments. The canal system features over 1,000 significant historical monuments.
Amsterdam comes with a low crime index, making it one of the safer European Capitals. You’ll find plenty of cyclists and pubs in the city. The city’s charming day life and nightlife make it one of the most famous European capital cities.
Amsterdam’s strategic location in Europe’s rail system makes it a great place to base yourself when exploring Europe. You can quickly reach many other European Capitals.
4. Berlin, Germany
The Population of Berlin: 3,769,000
This European capital has a bohemian vibe filled with traditional artists and street art. It is also one of the best European cities for nightlife. Berlin is an energy-packed city attracts travellers from all around the world to experience its history and culture.
History buffs can find eerie remnants of World War II history. A small piece of the Berlin Wall still stands, keeping the lessons of the past in full display and the Holocaust Memorial is a moving memorial dedicated to the murdered Jews of Europe. Seeing these reminders creates some stark imagery. However, seeing today’s city rise above its past will give you inspiration for a better future. A good tour to take to learn of Berlin’s past is the free communist walking tour.
When you are in Berlin, make sure you visit the Brandenburg Gate, it takes inspiration from the Acropolis entrance in Athens. The neoclassical architecture symbolizes Berlin’s unity and remains the only surviving city gate.
5. Athens, Greece
The Population of Athens, Greece: 664,000
You can find historical sites throughout Europe but as the oldest European capital, Athens really stands out from the rest. The famed city provides historical landmarks as far as the eye can see. The Acropolis remains a popular tourist destination thousands of years after it was originally built.
The Odeon of Herodes Atticus showcases pieces of residential lifestyle from ancient times when outdoor theatrical performances were popular throughout the city.
You’ll find many ancient theaters like the Theatre of Dionysus and the Odeon of Herodes Atticus just to mane a few as Athens features more theaters than any other country. After walking around in the hot heat, learn more about Athens history as well as seeing more artifacts at the Acropolis Museum. Built around an ancient Athenian neighborhood, this museum provides artifacts and a refuge from the heat.
6. Lisbon, Portugal
The Population of Lisbon: 507,000
If you want to party, head over to Lisbon. Europe’s party city provides plenty of choices. After the party, head over to the Alfama district. The Miradourso das Portas do Sol provides great views of the Tagus river and red roofs that fill the district.
If you are into shopping make sure to check out the Thieve’s Market. Despite its name, you won’t find any thieves here but you will find a great selection of souvenirs.
Make sure to hop on Lisbon’s famous Tram 28 to see more of the city. You’ll find trams across the city like cable cars in San Francisco. The Belem neighborhood offers pretty ocean views and plenty of history. You can also visit Lisbon’s Oceanarium. This gigantic aquarium houses more than one million gallons of seawater and over 8,000 creatures that call it home.
7. Madrid, Spain
The Population of Madrid: 3,335,000
Beautiful parks, historical museums, and monumental architecture fill Madrid’s streets. The Parque del Retiro attracts millions of visitors each year. The park’s location at the center of Madrid makes it a popular and accessible destination. The Spanish Monarchy owned this park until the 19th century.
You can also feast your eyes on the majestic Royal Palace of Madrid. This beautiful building has over 2,000 gilded rooms. Pretty artwork lines the palace’s walls and ceilings. If you want to see more of Spain, head over to Barcelona as well. A train from Madrid will get you there in under three hours.
8. Paris, France
The Population of Paris, France: 2,148,000
The City of Love and Lights remains a popular European tourist destination. Famous attractions like the Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum help to make this one of the most visited European Capitals.
Paris offers a vibrant culture and plenty of restaurants. You can get an aerial view of the city from the observation platform at the Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triumph. The Arc plays host to an annual ceremony for the 1919 armistice that ended World War I and is not to be missed.
Don’t leave Paris without visiting the Champs-Elysees. This renowned street lets you see the Arc de Triumph and Place de la Concorde. It’s one of the best places to visit in Europe.
9. Rome, Italy
The Population of Rome, Italy: 2,873,000
The Roman Empire’s history showcases itself to visitors in this fascinating city. The Roman Coliseum remains a must-see tourist attraction. Each time you visit this city, you will encounter a new piece of history. Walking through the Roman Forum is something that you will never forget. This Forum presided as the epicenter of Rome’s activity
While touring the city, make a stop at the Trevi Fountain. This masterpiece receives the most praise and recognition amongst Rome’s fountains and for good reason. It is said that if you throw one coin into the fountain you’ll return to The Eternal City, tossing two coins means you’ll return and fall in love, and tossing three coins means you’ll return, find love, and marry.
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10. Oslo, Norway
The Population of Oslo, Norway: 698,000
Oslo doesn’t generate as much buzz as other European capital cities on this list. However, the capital provides scenic waterfront views and parks. You can take a walk in the spacious Vigeland Park. It’s filled with green spaces and marvelous sculptures. After Vigeland Park, Frogner Park makes for another great destination.
The Viking Ship Museum provides historical memorabilia of the Viking days. The ships in the museum sailed the great seas more than 1,000 years ago.
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11. Warsaw, Poland
The Population of Warsaw, Poland: 1,765,000
After its near destruction in World War II, the city has come back to life. This revival inspired people to nickname Warsaw “The Phoenix City.” You can learn about historical events such as the Warsaw Uprising.
Warsaw’s Royal Way contains some of the city’s most important sights. The Royal Castle, Presidential Palace, and Pilsudski square make this a walk you don’t want to miss.
The Royal Way takes 30 minutes to walk. Plan a few days for the Royal Way so you can soak in the sights.
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12. Budapest, Hungary
The Population of Budapest, Hungary: 1,724,000
You can soak in the Szechenyi Baths and visit numerous bars in Budapest. You’ll find attractive bridges lined up across the city. They offer spectacular views of the Danube, Europe’s second-longest river.
There is so much to do in Budapest and some of the things you don’t want to miss are Buda Castle, Fisherman’s Bastion, and more. The Fisherman’s Bastion served as lookout towers in the 19th century. Many people flock over to the Fisherman’s Bastion for a view of the city. You’ll also find a cafe on the terrace.
When exploring Budapest, you’ll want to visit each half of the city. Buda and Pest each form Budapest. Each part comes with a different vibe. By the end of your stay, you’ll decide for yourself if Buda or Pest provides a better experience for you.
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13. Edinburgh, Scotland
The Population of Edinburgh, Scotland: 488,000
This relatively small Scottish capital comes with plenty of charm. It offers something for everyone. Whether you are into outdoor activities, history, or just taking the beauty of the architecture, you won’t be disappointed with Edinburgh.
You can hike up Arthur’s Seat for a beautiful view overlooking the city. You won’t find hordes of tourists on this mountain, making it an excellent place for privacy. Arthur’s Seat originates from a long-gone volcano.
Edinburgh also hosts many festivals throughout the year and it is a good idea to plan your visit around one of them. You won’t find as many people in this European capital compared to others but Edinburgh provides nightlife and excitement with a smaller crowd.
14. Florence, Italy
The population of Florence: 380,000
This historic city, which is the capital of the Tuscan region of Italy, attracts history buffs and couples alike. It offers a glimpse of history through Renaissance art and architecture as well as being one of the most romantic cities in the world.
Florence was home to many famous artists over the years, and because of this is the place to visit if you are an art lover. As Renaissance’s focal point, Florence provides today’s visitors with some of the finest art in Europe. Here you will find Michelangelo’s David, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and Giorgio Vasari’s Last Judgement, just to name a few.
After viewing the artwork, you can take some time to experience famous sights sites like the Galleria dell-Academia and Duomo Cathedral. You’ll also walk in the same city that has played host to several movies, including “Inferno.”
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Ready to Travel to the European Capital Cities
These European capital cities are the perfect place to start planning your next trip to Europe. Whether you are interested in art, history, food, or nightlife, one of these European capitals is sure to satisfy whatever interests you the most.
We recommend you check out our travel guides. You’ll find information about the best cities and destinations on each continent. Seize your moment and travel the world, one beautiful city at a time.