8 must see cities for first time in Europe

My first trip to Europe was fast. Like many others I thought the best way to visit Europe the first time was on a group bus tour with an itinerary which visited numerous cities in only a few weeks and ticked off as many key sites as possible.

If you’re planning your first trip here are 8 must see cities for first time in Europe which I believe to be the best places to visit in Europe for first timers to get a real feel for the continent.

1. London

I spent four nights in London the first time I visited and found the size and number of things to do there overwhelming. You won’t be able to do everything, but with a few days you’ll be able to experience the highlights such as The Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, St Pauls Cathedral, Oxford Street, Westminster and a couple of galleries. The added bonus is that London Heathrow is basically a gateway to the world.


2. Paris

It’s easy to get to Paris from London thanks to the Eurostar or buses which take the ferry to Calais from Dover. Check out the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, see the Mona Lisa at Musee du Louvre, and the Moulin Rouge (whether you see a show there or not).

Young woman in blue dress and denim jacket leaning on concrete edge with a street, white van, Parisian building and Eiffel Tower in background

3. Rome

My favourite Italian city – visit Vatican City, attend a Papal Audience in St Peters Square, toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain, enter the Colosseum and check out the Pantheon. It’s also important to consume pizza, gelato and a coffee standing up.

Rome Colosseum

4. Venice

Back when Europe was a place I had only imagined the floating city of Venice and it’s Gondolas were what I pictured (probably thanks to masses of advertising). The fact Venice is made up of 117 islands crossed with bridges is inconceivable as it’s so hard to pick them out. Seeing traditional Glass Blowing and Lace Making as well as visiting the markets and Piazza San Marco are excellent starting points.

5. Athens

I’m sure many tourists only pass through Athens as means of getting to the Greek Islands but the ruins of the Acropolis and the Panathenaic Stadium are historic sites everyone should make an effort to see in their lifetime.

Parthenon exterior with blue sky at Acropolis Athens

6. Barcelona

I think Barcelona is one of the best cities in Europe for first time travellers. to visit. It’s a large city to explore but easy to do so with the purchase of a Hop On Hop Off Bus pass. Get off at sites such as the Olympic Stadium, Sagrada Familia, Las Ramblas, the Gothic Quarter, and stadium of Barcelona FC. Watching the sun set from the Bunkers del Carmel also comes highly recommended from me.

gaudi barcelona missed a flight

7. Berlin

As much as I loved Munich with its gardens and beer halls, if you can only visit one city in Germany it really should be Berlin. It wasn’t until my fourth visit to Europe that I finally walked the length of the Berlin Wall Gallery, visited Brandenburg Gate and explored the parks and restaurants adored by residents.

8. Amsterdam

Amsterdam has two sides for visitors – the idyllic canals and floating flower market and then the Red Light District and the coffee shops. If you’re visiting Amsterdam for the first time I can tell you that it’s best seen on a bike, and you must save time to visit Anne Frank’s house and the Heineken Experience.

So… do you agree? Or what would you say are the must visit cities if you’re visiting Europe for the first time? Pin the image below so you can find this post later!

8 must visit European cities for first timers


  1. May 15, 2015 / 11:46 am

    A fabulous list of places but I’d add Dubrovnik to that list, it;s one of my favourite cities in the wold. #teamwanderlust

  2. jenny_atasteoftravel
    May 10, 2015 / 2:41 am

    A great list of places including many of my favourites! Berlin is not one of them but I understand some people love it. I spent a week in Athens last year and whilst I enjoyed it, I love, love, love Istanbul so I would have to replace Athens with my favourite city!

  3. May 8, 2015 / 1:24 pm

    All great cities (the ones I’ve already been to…). If I had to pick JUST ONE, it would be Venice. There is something very magical about that city. And one which I would definitely add is Istanbul (although only half of it is in Europe).

  4. Malinda
    May 7, 2015 / 9:36 pm

    Top list, they really are the must sees, even if just once.

  5. May 7, 2015 / 2:10 pm

    What a fabulous round up. I still can’t believe I haven’t made it to Greece. I need to remedy that ASAP. Thank you for reminding me of all the wonderful cities x

  6. Leanne Anderson
    May 6, 2015 / 6:54 pm

    Love this list. some of my all time favourites here! I have still NOT been to Barcelona, it’s on my list for sure as I hear some wonderful things about it. Agree with Kirralee too re Florence – it’s mind blowingly amazing.

    • May 8, 2015 / 9:01 am

      Thanks Leanne – it’s kind of cool that while everyone has such different experiences and opinions we can all agree on so many of these 🙂

  7. Kirralee @ Escape With Kids
    May 6, 2015 / 1:18 pm

    Berlin is surprisingly wonderful isn’t it? I love it there. So much history, but also some beautiful architecture. I would have to put Krakow pretty high on my list. Another city that surprised me with its beauty. Plus the opportunity to visit Auschwitz. And Florence over Venice. I could live in Florence I think. Art and architecture (my two favs) to blow you away. But totally with you on London. The centre of the world. My favourite city worldwide.

    • May 7, 2015 / 9:38 pm

      Actually my reason for making this a list of 8 cities rather than a round 10 was that Florence would have to have been in there and then 1/3 of the cities would have been in Italy! Such a beautiful country. Krakow is not somewhere I have considered but must research more.

  8. LydiaCLee
    May 6, 2015 / 10:26 am

    I would put Paris first – Venice above Rome (I loved Berlin so glad it made your list – fab city). I was very charmed by Copenhagen. London less taken with (not really taken with at all – nothing wrong with it, just didn’t blow me away). I am keen to go to Oslo, Brussels and Barcelona….

    • May 6, 2015 / 11:32 am

      Copenhagen, Brussels and Oslo I would love to visit! Europe just has so many lovely cities.

  9. The Enthusiastic Cook
    April 22, 2015 / 5:51 pm

    Barcelona is my favourite city. I planned on spending four days there last year and ended up flagging almost the rest of Spain while I immersed myself in everything the city had to offer instead. If you are planning on going back, try and time it during the Festa Major de Gracia. It was the most insane, wonderful festival I’ve ever been to, and is a real local tradition. Not many tourists know about this one.

    Also we took in a football game in Rome (Roma vs Verona) and it was as crazy as I expected it would be but also had the greatest atmosphere!

    • April 27, 2015 / 11:11 pm

      Totally understand why you’d want to spend as long as possible in Barcelona. Thanks for the tips for next time, being a kiwi watching foreign team sports similar to rugby is always fun 🙂

  10. April 20, 2015 / 9:20 pm

    Interesting article and yes i agree with you on most points .I would totally skip anne frank haus though it was very commercial and if u have never read the book u are not missing much.i loved both munich and berlin its very hard to put one over the other, i would possible drop venice in favour of munich but who knows . The joy of traveling is one person takes something from each place they visit and thats how we devise these these lists. Good read and good article cheers

    • April 27, 2015 / 11:13 pm

      Thank you! Interesting hearing your thoughts on Anne Frank Haus – a colleague visited Amsterdam in January and said even in the freezing off-season the queues were out of control.