As countries around Europe reopen borders and relax or altogether end coronavirus restrictions, and as flights, hotels, restaurants and cafes reopen, holidays to Europe are again a realistic possibility for relief-seeking travelers.
With votes from more than 500,000 travellers from 182 countries and considering the safety measures taken by countries and regions, the European Best Destinations organization (EBD) has released the list of the 20 trendiest destinations in Europe for 2022.
The winning contenders of the coveted “Best European Destinations 2022” title will be promoted throughout the year to millions of travelers — and will be authorized to display the title “European Best Destination” in their marketing.
As “a growing call to consider the coronavirus a permanent fixture in our lives is resonating in the world of travel and among industry representatives,” according to the New York Times, and as governments reopen borders and lift Covid-19 virus restrictions, tourism has been picking up across the continent, despite the fact that the situation in each country is still fluid and tourists, tour operators, hotels and restaurateurs must remain highly flexible.
“Discover Europe’s must-see destinations, hidden gems and small sustainable tourism places,” suggests EBD – a component of the European Commission’s EDEN Network (European Destinations of Excellence). “Today is the perfect day to start planning your next trips to Europe.”
1. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, is a city for the curious and adventurous, a treasure trove of exciting secrets and natural joys.
The proudly green capital of Slovenia welcomes all travelers hungry for culture, art, entertainment and offers broad, green areas, which have made it a global example of environmental planning. Earlier than other European destinations, Ljubljana opted for a fully pedestrian historic center.
Colorful history and natural heritage combined with authentic charm, culture, cuisine and varied city life have placed this beautiful capital at the top of the list of best destinations.
2. Marbella, Spain
Marbella is known as the “capital of sun” in Europe. It’s a preferred destination for travelers looking for relaxation, shopping, refined hotels and restaurants, as well as local handcrafts, golf, outdoor sports, elegance and refinement.
Marbella is als0 among the most attractive destinations for digital nomads, sports enthusiasts and gourmets — and a favorite attraction for companies and investors.
“Marbella has developed sustainable and responsible tourism of very high quality and is an example of good practice at European level,” according to EBD.
The historic center with its authentic alleys full of flowers and plants hanging on the walls and balconies are an inimitable signature of this destination.
Marbella’s warm microclimate and year-round sunshine make it an outdoor sports paradise. This sunny destination is also first ranked among the most prestigious and exclusive destinations in Europe.
3. Amiens, France
A peaceful haven of canals and floating gardens that display one of the most beautiful and largest Gothic cathedrals in France, Amiens is also a place to take an extraordinary journey in the footsteps of Jules Verne.
Divided by the Somme River, the city also is well known for its medieval belfry. Shops and cafes line the old Quartier St.-Leu’s narrow streets as floating market gardens (“hortillonnages”) dot the city’s canals.
Ideally located in the heart of the Paris-London-Brussels triangle, Amiens has been ranked as the fourth-greenest city in France and is the only French city to have three UNESCO heritage sites, including its imposing cathedral and stunning architecture.
The city was a source of inspiration for Jules Verne when he settled there in 1871. The famous author left his mark on the city and his influence is visible in many corners of its streets.
Amiens is home to an international garden festival around the famous floating Hortillonnages that has been voted the most beautiful City Park in Europe. The Hortillonnages, a 740-acre green paradise in the heart of the city, can be explored on foot, by bike, in a row boat, kayak or even on a paddleboard.
“Don’t miss the must-see Musée de Picardie or hop on a bike and head to Amiens Zoo, a real island of biodiversity where endangered species are protected in the peace of nature,” advises EBD.
4. Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Besides being one of the European Best Destinations 2022, Plovdiv is the oldest continuously-inhabited city in Europe and one of the world’s most ancient.
As the main cultural centre of Bulgaria, Plovdiv also won the title of European Capital of Culture 2019.
The city is home to impressive monuments of antiquity – the 1st-century theater, the Roman Stadium from the 2nd century, the Ancient Forum, the fine examples of Roman mosaic heritage in the Bishop’s Basilica of Philippopolis and in the Small Early Christian Basilica, both dating back to the 4th-6th centuries.
Plovdiv’s Old Town, the city’s finest gem, is a cultural phenomenon, with beautiful and richly-decorated Revival houses. This destination also has been ranked first among the Best Cultural Destinations in Europe 2022 and has been the most-voted Bulgarian destination since the creation of this competition in 2009.
5. Leuven, Belgium
Leuven, a picturesque city in the heart of Belgium, east of Brussels, is an ideal destination for an exciting all year round city break.
Thanks to its rich and varied offering in heritage, art, culture, science, beer, gastronomy and shopping, this centuries-old university town invites visitors to stroll and discover everything within walking or biking distance. A hip and urban vibe in an historical setting, guarantees to draw visitors into its vibrancy.
With car-free shopping streets, street markets offering local products, this is also the land of chocolate and well known for its rich history of breweries dating back to 1366, and includes a number of well-known beer-makers, among them the legendary and world-famous Stella Artois.
On a central square is the 15th-century town hall, guarded by its tall spires. The building is decorated with hundreds of statues of local figures, biblical characters and saints. Opposite, the late Gothic St. Peter’s Church houses a “Last Supper” by the Flemish Primitive painter Dieric Bouts. Nearby, Oude Markt is a long square lined with bars and cafes.
6. Oradea, Romania
Considered one of the most beautiful cities in Romania, Oradea is a city that fully enjoys each season and pumps live energy in a surprising architectural landscape, which has made it one of the region’s best-known destinations for slow and stress-free tourism.
Situated on the western Romanian border only 300 miles from Vienna, Oradea exhibits the influence of the occident throughout its long history. Its architectural patrimony is so unique that the city has been voted the most beautiful Art Nouveau town in Europe.
Oradea, a city of the young, of health and relaxation as well as of cultural events, music, theater and exhibitions spread throughout the year also was voted “the most beautiful city in Romania.”
7. London, U.K.
After Brexit, Covid and border closures, it’s high time in 2022 to rediscover London, one of Europe’s richest destinations. Capital of the United Kingdom, London, like very few other destinations, brings together traders, business people, bankers, eccentrics, artists, creators, designers and tourists.
Its tourist offer goes well beyond Big Ben, the London Eye and Madame Tussauds, which will always delight young and old. London also offers urban parks of rare beauty ranked among the most attractive city parks in Europe.
“Head for Portobello flea markets and colorful houses that are the backdrop to legendary films like “Notting Hill,” discover the eccentric and colorful neighborhood of Camden Town, stroll among the tidy commercial streets of Regent Street and Oxford Street to the designer, artistic and independent shopping districts of Carnaby Street or Covent Garden — and do not miss the gay and LGBTQ district of Soho and marvel at the theater posters hosting world-renowned musicals,” EBD recommends.
Favorite times to discover London are in spring and summer, when it’s less crowded and the parks in the city center and surrounding areas such as Richmond Park are sublime with flowering plants ancient trees and deer roaming freely.
8. Nijmegen, Netherlands
Nijmegen is the oldest city in the Netherlands, the second to be recognized as such in Roman times and with a city center full of picturesque, historical locations to prove it.
Close to the German border, the Nijmegen region occupies a perfect position in a magnificent, undulating river landscape between the Rhine, Meuse and Waal rivers.
It’s not just a rich cultural history that makes Nijmegen one of the most sparkling destinations in Europe: Events and festivals, unique hot spots, cosy restaurants, sidewalk cafes and varied shopping areas add to the liveliness of the city.
Nijmegen is the Dutch destination that has received the most votes since the creation of this competition, ahead of Amsterdam and Rotterdam. It’s also ranked Best Youth Destination in Europe.
9. Lahti Region – Finland
Lahti, situated an hour north of the capital Helsinki, is a green destination in every sense: The country’s eighth-largest city is packed with beautiful forests, parks and reserves replete with hiking trails and lookout points.
A gateway to the Finnish Lakeland – the largest in Europe — Lahti is a front-runner in climate work and a pioneer in sustainable and smart environmental solutions.
Finland boasts more than 188,000 lakes and the water is the cleanest in the world. Lahti is located only an hour north of the capital Helsinki, its international airport and port, and just 2 1/2 hours by train to St. Petersburg.
From Lahti, the waterway opens up from local Lake Vesijärvi to the pure Lake Päijänne, which is the second-biggest lake in Finland, providing drinking water to the entire region. Nearly 75% of the city area is covered by forest, while 11% consists of bodies of water.
The best tap water in the world, filtered and purified naturally by the Salpausselkä ridges, is a daily luxury.
‘Take a Finnish traditional sauna, swim in open pure lakes; take slow walks in the forest and nights in a private lakeside villa,” writes EBD.
10. Istanbul, Turkey
A cosmopolitan city straddling two shores and two continents — with one foot in the East and the other in the West — Istanbul is the perfect city destination, with its captivating blend of sights, sounds and colors.
Magnificent mosques, atmospheric churches, intriguing museums and Sultans’ palaces alongside stylish art galleries, world-class restaurants and nightclubs, the city is a fascinating melting pot of the 21st-century as well.
Istanbul has been home to three empires: the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman. And its unique blend of Christian and Islamic sites is present everywhere.
“See the Iznik tiles at the world-famous Blue Mosque, enjoy the majesty of the Hagia Sophia and tour the harem and exhibits at the home of the Ottoman Sultans, the Topkapi Palace” writes EBD. “Your itinerary should include the unique Byzantine frescoes of the Kariye Museum, the Ottoman architect Sinan’s masterpiece the Suleymaniye Mosque complex overlooking the Golden Horn and the Genoese Galata Tower with its panoramic views of the whole city.”
A short trip across the Bosphorus on one of the city’s ferries will land you at Üsküdar, a bustling town with many important examples of Ottoman architecture and great food shopping. Further afield, the Bosphorus’s villages have much to offer: wooden Ottoman houses, the village ambience of Arnavutköy and the fortress of Rumeli Hisari with its unforgettable views over the water and fresh seafood.
11. Amalfi Coast, Italy
With its steep cliffs resembling those of Madeira in Portugal, it stretches for more than 30 miles. The traditional fishing villages of the Amalfi coast are picturesquely colorful and charming as they nestle in the cliffs along the blue marine sea.
In spring, lemon trees perfume the sea air and in September and October the incredible vineyards carved out of the cliffs come alive.
Rightly considered a jewel of Italy, the Amalfi Coast is a mythical vacation spot that has turned the heads of illustrious heroes such as Ulysses, bewitched by the sirens. Amalfi, Ravello, Positano are among the colorful villages to visit.
12. Prague, Czech Republic
In the past, tourists mobbed European cities such as Barcelona, London or Paris. But due mainly to the fact that “many travellers have left the big cities, wishing to escape the crowds for secondary, lesser-known destinations, Prague —like Lisbon, Venice and London — is much more pleasant to visit nowadays,” says EBD.
This romantic destination has ranked among the Best Christmas Markets in Europe, Best destinations to celebrate New Year’s Eve, Best honeymoon destinations in Europe, Best places to propose in Europe and Best Fairy tale destinations in Europe.
13. Rome, Italy
“People come here to discover ‘Roma Caput Mundi’ the capital of the world and the power of the Roman Empire,” explains EBD.
For more than 10 years, Rome has regularly been selected among Europe’s best destinations. The province of Rome is a matching frame for the many treasures of the capital and has experienced the influence of the history of the Eternal City.
The region offers sea, hills, lakes, rivers, vineyards, good food and villages rich in history and art.
14. Bavaria, Germany
Bavaria is Germany‘s most visited region and one of the favorite destinations for travelers new to Europe. An historic region with many legendary castles ranked among the most beautiful castles in Germany, such as the “Neuschwanstein Castle,” a fairytale castle located a few kilometers from Munich Airport, Bavaria is also a modern and open-minded region.
Bordering on Austria and Switzerland, Bavaria has an incredible history and old traditions that fascinate travelers from around the world.
Green and rich in wild flora and fauna, Bavaria offers the largest forest in Europe for those looking for a trip combining nature, outdoor sport, culture, gastronomy and history.
Traveling in winter? Don’t miss Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Oberstdorf, counted among the best ski resorts in Germany and located in Bavaria.
15. Athens, Greece
Over the last ten years, Athens has repeatedly been ranked among the top Best European Destinations. Visitors return time and again for the Parthenon or the Temple of Poseidon and also to discover more than historic sites in this old but youthful city resolutely turned towards the future.
Still, Crete’s 5th-century BC landmarks, including the Acropolis, a hilltop citadel topped with ancient buildings like the colonnaded Parthenon temple, are among the most visited by tourists from around the world.
The Acropolis Museum, along with the National Archaeological Museum, preserves sculptures, vases, jewelry and more from Ancient Greece.
“During your stay, be sure to visit the Varvakios Agora, an amazing indoor and outdoor food market, a perfect place to mingle with the Athenians and experience the unique Greek ambience and stroll through the Monastiraki neighborhood teeming with bars, cafes, restaurants, markets, small shops, flea markets and Greek handicrafts,” recommends EBD.
Take a walk and leave the city center to visit the Athens’ seaside, its restaurants and fish markets or take refuge in the green oasis of the National Gardens, 40 acres of pure nature in the heart of the Greek capital.
16. Clonakilty, Ireland
Awarded by the European Commission for its commitment to sustainable tourism combining environmental protection and local development of regional products, Clonakilty is one of Ireland’s top sustainable-tourism destinations.
Founded in 1588 by Richard Boyle, Great Earl of Cork, Clonakilty is usually flush with color from the traditional shop fronts and the many flowers and plants blooming along the narrow bustling streets.
A number of festivals occur in Clonakilty every year, including the West Cork Rally, an International Guitar Festival and the Michael Collins Festival. Music, good food and a bit of ‘craic’ (good time) can be had in the many hostelries of this delightful town.
Clonakilty is not only one of the best destinations to visit in Europe, it’s also one of the best gastronomical sustainable destinations and one of the best destinations in Europe for sustainable experiences.
17. Vienna, Austria
An ideal locale for romantics, with horse-drawn carriage rides followed by a visit to the Royal Palaces and in the evening, a waltz to the sound of Strauss’s Blue Danube to put you in the mood.
Vienna is also great for a sparkling, original city break for friends and families.
“We love Vienna in spring and summer, with its parks classified among the most beautiful city parks in Europe,” says EBD. The amusement park called “The Prater” in the heart of the city is considered one of the best places for a marriage proposal.
For people who want to meet other people, the Palmenhaus, the largest greenhouse in Europe, houses a bar and a trendy restaurant where you can eat Austrian specialties or drink lighter cocktails.
18. Lucerne, Switzerland
Lucerne is a postcard destination that attracts visitors from around the world.
It lies at the heart of Switzerland and, historically, the Lake Lucerne Region, with the world-famous city of Lucerne (or Luzern), Switzerland’s birthplace. Its landscape is framed by the spectacular Alps, covered in a magical blanket of snow in winter.
It is said that the Lake Lucerne region is a “pocket-size version” of Switzerland.
These are some of EBD’s recommendations: Enjoy a hot-cheese raclette on a winter boat trip on Lake Lucerne; spend a day in the snow at the foothills of the Alps with a panoramic view of the mountains; take a gentle stroll through the city or an excursion on a paddle-steamer on Lake Lucerne and relax in the mild climate of the “Lucerne Riviera,” with its great wealth of wellness hotels.
The idyllic lakeside villages of Weggis and Vitznau on the shores of Lake Lucerne on the sunny southern flank of Mount Rigi offer a variety of holiday experiences.
19. Graz, Austria
In the historic old town, with its roads, streets, squares and courtyards, there is much to explore and even more to be enjoyed for Graz is also a culinary capital. At its heart is Hauptplatz, the medieval old town’s main square.
Shops and restaurants line the narrow surrounding streets, which blend Renaissance and Baroque architecture. A funicular leads up to Schlossberg, the town hill and Uhrturm, a centuries-old clock tower.
Austria is a trendy destination for history buffs, culture and shopping. It’s also a premier destination for those looking for sustainable tourism destinations like Landlust and Mostviertel. It also attracts travelers hunting the most beautiful Christmas markets.
20. Crete, Greece
Discover the secret of longevity by visiting Crete, one of the best destinations in Europe for 2022.
This Greek island bathed in sunshine and warm winds is an ideal destination for lovers of wild life but also for foodies and those looking for relaxation. It’s said that the secret of longevity of Crete inhabitants is its gastronomy.
Visit the historical sites of Petras and Kommos; dive into the warm blue waters of Matala or Falasarna; stay in the legendary city of Heraklion or in the beautiful port cities of Chania and Agios Nikolaos.
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the 88th-largest island in the world and the fifth-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus and Corsica.