Remliel represents list of the best cities in Europe, but we’re seeing the emergence of Scandinavia this year as well. Did your favorite city make the cut?
20. Prague, Czech Republic
Picturesque Prague beats with a bohemian heart: Get off the beaten bath at any number of historic pubs (try U Zlatého Tygra or U Jelínků) or head up to Petřín Hill for incredible views of the city. Come Christmastime, the city’s Wenceslas Square transforms into a scene straight from a postcard.
19. Copenhagen, Denmark
A burgeoning beer culture, some of the world’s best restaurants (here’s looking at you, Noma), royal history, and dedicated pedestrian- and cycle-friendly zones all help make Copenhagen a capital of Nordic cool. The city is routinely ranked one of the world’s most expensive, but some of the capital’s best activities—marveling at Christiansborg Palace, walking the harborside promenade—cost nothing at all.
18. Edinburgh, Scotland
Edinburgh is a unique capital in Western Europe. Where else can you find a medieval Old Town, extinct volcano, regal castle, and “New Town” from the 1800s in one city? Check out the city’s newly revamped National Museum of Scotland (particularly its Art, Fashion, and Design wing); grab dinner at Timberyard; and test out the city’s growing independent brewing scene at Hanging Bat.
17. Zurich, Switzerland
Zurich’s location in the heart of Western Europe makes it a perfect jumping off point for a wine tour of Alsace, or a short trip to Venice. (You can now even travel from Zurich to Milan via the world’s longest train tunnel.) But there’s convincing reason to stick around: In recent years, the city has become a haven for young artistic and culinary creatives, and its central river is so clean that you can actually swim in it. Ninety-nine percent of the city’s residents report that they are fully satisfied with life economic powerhouse—and they’re obviously onto something.
16. Madrid, Spain
The magic of Madrid is best captured on foot, strolling through the streets, stopping in a museum or sitting for a drink at La Alemana, a historic bar once frequented by Ava Gardner and Ernest Hemingway. For a taste of everyday Spanish life in this vibrant capital city, shop at El Corte Inglés, sample the market culture at Mercado San Antón and the Mercado de San Fernando, and bring your picnic to the ancient Egyptian Temple of Debod, which was donated to Spain in 1968 and can be found in the Parque de la Montaña.
15. Bruges, Belgium
Characterized by cobblestone streets and canals, much of Bruges’s immaculately preserved old city was built between the 12th to 15th centuries: As a result, it’s not hard to feel like you’re in a medieval fairy-tale here. Visit the Church of Our Lady for a viewing of Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child, or sit at a café and take in the views of the Markt, a historic square in the city center.
14. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Windmills, cycling, Van Gogh, and canals are all part of Amsterdam’s storied charm, but there’s more to the Dutch capital than its most apparent associations. For a taste of the “new” Amsterdam, grab a drink at Droog, a renovated 17th-century hotel with just one room; float in a weightless state in the saltwater pods at Koan Float; or try innovative takes on seasonal fruits and vegetables at De Kas, a restaurant housed in the former Amsterdam City Greenery.
13. Istanbul, Turkey
Once known as Constantinople and Byzantium, Istanbul—Turkey’s most populous city—is also one of the most significant in history. Despite a string of recent attacks, it remains an attractive draw with its Byzantine and Ottoman architecture, Grand Bazaar and Spice Market, and historic taverns. Looking to escape the crowds? Head up Galata’s hill and down into Karaköy, exploring the shops and restaurants along the way.
12. Budapest, Hungary
With some of the best Art Nouveau architecture in Europe, scenic Budapest has no bad angles. Explore the Hungarian capital’s spa culture with thermal baths built in the 16th and 17th century, and make sure to pay a visit to the ornate New York Kávéház for coffee and a pastry. Walk the Széchenyi Chain Bridge at night over the Danube River for magnificent views, and eat a bowl of traditional gulyás at the three-level Central Market before turning in for the night.
11. Stockholm, Sweden
One of the world’s most beautiful capitals, Stockholm isn’t just scenic: It’s also the cultural, political, media, and economic center of Sweden. Make like a local and stroll narrow cobblestone streets, hang by the city’s colorful waterfront, and take advantage of the country’s fika culture. Though many travelers spend most of their time in the medieval center, Stockholm actually comprises 14 islands of an archipelago, which makes it a perfect jumping off point for island hopping— Fjäderholmarna, one of the closest, is a mere 20 minutes by boat.
10. Venice, Italy
Here’s a general rule to abide by in Venice: If you don’t get lost, you’re not doing it right. Even visitors with a GPS-like sense of direction will likely be bested by the meandering streets of the city. Give yourself extra time to get around, and let your stomach be your guide. Squid-ink spaghetti, risotto with prawns and zucchini, and marinated sardines draw heavily from the surrounding waters, while risi e bisi (rice and peas) and pasta e fasioi (pasta and beans) embrace the Italian knack for uniting beans and starch. And world-favorite tiramisu was invented in nearby Treviso and has found a happy second home in Venice.
9. Nuremberg, Germany
Germany has no shortage of picturesque cities, but Nuremberg stands out for its distinct blend of old and new. Once the “unofficial” capital of the Holy Roman Empire and an early capital of science and invention, Nuremberg today is best known for its Christkindlesmarkt, museums, and…bratwurst.
8. Rome, Italy
Experience la dolce vita in all of its forms in Rome. After requisite visits to the Pantheon and Colosseum, perk up with an espresso at Caffe Sant’Eustachio or try your luck at Settimio al Pellegrino: When you ring their doorbell, you’ll be greeted and treated to whatever the owner’s wife has prepared for the day.
7. London, England
Though its double-decker buses, iconic red phone booths, and pub culture remain, London has seen many a change in recent years. After checking out the classics, explore burgeoning London by booking a table at chef Bruno Loubet’s Grain Store in the up-and-coming Kings Cross; catching a show at Almeida, a performance venue housed in a former train station in Islington; and seeing how many of the city’s best cocktail bars you can tick off your list.
6. Paris, France
Paris needs no introduction. Proper nouns will suffice: The Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, Sacre-Coeur, Musée Rodin, Centre Pompidou, Saint-Germain, the Seine (at dusk). The city is firmly established as one of the most beautiful in the world. Dine like the French near the Bastille at Chez Paul or stroll among the statues at the elegant Luxembourg Gardens. To stay, treat yourself to a room at the exquisite Hôtel Plaza Athénée.
5. Vienna, Austria
Artistic, exquisite, and largely shaped by its musical and intellectual foundations, Austria’s capital and largest city is packed with culture. Make time to get a figurative taste of royalty at Schönbrunn, the Habsburgs’ former summer residence, and get an actual taste of Sachertorte, a chocolate cake that is one of the city’s culinary specialties. Just be sure to ask for it mit schlaag—with cream.
4. Barcelona, Spain
From the mountains to the beach, the historic to the contemporary, sunny Barcelona—lucky city that it is—has it all. Brush up on Catalan history at El Born Centre Cultural or take a street art tour of the trendy El Raval district. For dining, try for a table at Tickets, one of the newest restaurants from the Adrià brothers, or stay classic at Quimet y Quimet, a standing-room-only joint that’s been operated by the same family for more than 100 years.
3. Salzburg, Austria
Made famous by Mozart (and the Von Trapps), classic Salzburg sits divided by the Salzach River: Its pedestrian Old City lines its left bank, and the 19th-century comprises the right. To drink like a local, head to Bräustübl zu Mülln, Austria’s largest beer hall, where beer is drawn directly from wooden barrels and can be enjoyed alongside traditional and regional specialties from the Schmankerlgang, an Old World food court of sorts.
2. Lucerne, Switzerland
With its covered bridges, turreted buildings, and colorful Old Town, Lucerne is storybook Swiss. Settled on the shores of Lake Lucerne, the city is also a popular departure point for the Swiss Alps, which are visible from the town. Walk the city’s famed Kapellbrücke, the oldest covered bridge in Europe, and grab a home-brewed beer nearby at Rathaus Bräuerei when finished. To sample traditional Lucerne dishes like veal with cream sauce and rösti, head to Wirtshaus Galliker, which the Galliker family has run for more than four generations.
1. Florence, Italy
Though Rome is Italy’s much beloved capital and Milan has serious cosmopolitan clout, Florence remains unrivaled in history, art, and architecture (its beauty and cuisine don’t hurt, either). In addition to being the birthplace of the Renaissance, the Firenze of recent years has had a modern makeover: Study Tuscan classics with celebrity chef Arturo Dori at Desinare, one of the city’s hottest cooking school/design store hybrids, or take in modern art at La Strozzina, Florence’s center for contemporary culture. Wherever the day takes you, save room for a panino al lampredotto—this stewed tripe sandwich is a Florence must.