If you’re planning a trip to Europe, like it or not, there are just some cities you need to see. Classics are classics for a reason after all. But there’s far more to the European continent than London or Paris. Want to get the most out of your trip? Read on for our list of must-see European capitals, both classic favourites and under-the-radar gems.
The ‘European’ aspect has been the subject of no small controversy in the past few years. But when it comes to classic capitals, London has been a favourite starting and end point for Canadians visiting Europe from the beginning! With some of the world’s finest museums, the Thames, Buckingham Palace, and a seemingly infinite selection of pubs, London is a destination that should be on everyone’s Eurotrip!
Paris, the city of light, has been a site of pilgrimage for centuries. But while other cities have ascended, the French capital is still renowned the world over as a tastemaker of food, art, fashion and everything culture. From its medieval catacombs, Renaissance palaces and revolutionary monuments to its charming boulevards, cafes and reputation as a hub for writers and artists down through the years, Paris is one classic that never gets old.
From the time of its rise during the Republic, Rome never fully left the popular consciousness as a place representative of civilization and wonder. Today’s city has certainly changed dramatically from those early beginnings, but there is no less reason to visit. With over 3,000 years of architecture, art and culture (not to mention the food!), Rome is one European metropolis you cannot miss.
On any European bucket list, there are a few staples that you just can’t get around. The Dutch capital is one of those. Equal parts engineering marvel, historical treasure, commercial powerhouse, and depository for some of the world’s greatest artistic masterpieces. With something for just about everyone, Amsterdam certainly deserves the hype.
With the two world wars and the city’s partition during the Cold War, for much of the 20th Century Berlin was a European capital of dubious accessibility for the average Canadian. But because of this history and more, it is now a place that should feature on any euro-itinerary. Even in spite of the recent property boom, the German city is still one of the most affordable of the main European capitals. This, coupled with its history, art and innovation, make Berlin an exciting destination well worth the visit.
Under the Radar
When it comes to European capitals, Minsk is about as obscure as it gets. While the neighbouring Baltic States have been trending lately as low-cost travel gems; Belarus has so far avoided most of this attention. Perhaps not for much longer however. Belarus made Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2019: Top Countries list; and with a burgeoning cafe and art scene, coupled with the new 30-day visa-free travel regime, Minsk is an inexpensive, under-the-radar capital well-worth exploring.
Helsinki, the laidback Nordic capital on the northern shore of the Gulf of Finland, has been receiving more and more of its due in recent years. Here, Swedish and Russian influences meet Finnish cool in this vibrant seaside capital. Art, design, festivals and a booming brew-pub scene lend the city some trendy vibes; but with incredibly accessible trails and bathing spots for cross-country skiing, hiking and swimming, Helsinki is a down-to-earth paradise for any wishing to travel off the beaten path.
Belgrade’s been booming in recent years. The eclectic mix of architectural styles encapsulate structures ranging from the city’s time under the Ottomans, to Hapsburg Austria-Hungary, to the Art-Nouveau style of the Yugoslav kingdom and the socialist modernist style of communist Yugoslavia. This diverse assortment, dominated by the block highrises of the communist-era, may not make Belgrade a, strictly-speaking, “pretty” city. But the ‘White City’ on the banks of the Danube exudes a gritty energy that is hard not to fall in love with.
The history of Malta is one of diverse, conflicting cultures and influences. The Mediterranean archipelago has experienced siege after siege and changed hands no few times in its long past. Its capital of Valletta, today, has been described as an open-air museum, a classification that perhaps explains its World Heritage Site status. With this incredible history, and the beautiful beaches to be found in and around the city, Valletta is a Mediterranean treasure worth the visit.
Inexpensive, beautiful, with a fabulous climate, Portugal has been attracting the attention of more and more travellers in recent years; and Lisbon, the country’s ancient capital, is a suitable gateway to begin exploring this enthralling land. Walk the colourful, cobbled streets to discover history, culture, and incredible cuisine. Surrounded by beautiful beaches, you can even go surfing. Act soon though, it won’t remain secret for long!
Learn more about these and other destinations by checking out Continental’s Countries!
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