It’s time for that long-awaited European vacation, whether it’s your first visit to the continent or your tenth. And while you should definitely spend some time on a beach this summer, Europe’s cultural capitals should also feature prominently on your itinerary. With world-class art, centuries of history, and destination-worthy fine dining, the best cities in Europe continue to beckon Travel + Leisure readers.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated cities on their sights and landmarks, culture, cuisine, friendliness, shopping, and overall value.
Spain claimed three of our readers’ favorite cities: Cordoba (No. 15), Madrid (No.11), and Seville (No. 3). Readers particularly loved the ways Seville encouraged spontaneity. “What a great city to get lost in,” said one voter. “The people are friendly, and you never know what surprises await you. We happened upon outdoor light shows and festivals just wandering around the city.”
Nearby, Portugal’s two stars, Lisbon and Porto, came in at No. 7 and No. 8, respectively. “I want to move to this city,” wrote one reader who visited Lisbon. “Excellent culture, amazing hospitality, and the weather is perfect.” Another element of the Portuguese capital that travelers appreciated? The authenticity and quality of its crafts. “The things you purchase were made in Portugal, and you will be proud to bring them home.”
A handful of Central and Eastern European cities also made the list. Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, was ranked No. 6, while Kraków, Poland, came at No. 9. “Ljubljana was a delightful surprise,” said one voter. “The capital was beautiful, and we had a fabulous guide for a walking tour of the old town,” chimed in another. Turkey, a country of rich cultural exchange that straddles both Europe and Asia, also netted two cities on the list: Istanbul (No. 2) and Bodrum (No. 4)
But it was perennial favorite Florence, voted readers’ most loved city in 2020 and 2019, that once again claimed the top spot. Read on to find out why — and to discover the other cities on this year’s list of the best cities in Europe, as voted by T+L readers.
Most travelers’ experience of the Tuscan capital can be summed up in three words: “Bella, bella, bella!” The city of the Renaissance has architecture, art, food, and history around every corner; many readers said this variety made it a perfect city for honeymooners to stroll around, soaking in the atmosphere. And while iconic sites like the Duomo, the Uffizi gallery, the Pitti Palace, and the Ponte Vecchio are not to be missed, many travelers said that the smaller moments made the city just as enchanting. “The highlight was a wine tasting conducted in a small shop with a wine cellar hundreds of years old,” said one reader.
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 91.06
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 90.97
3. Seville, Spain
4. Bodrum, Turkey
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 89.29
6. Ljubljana, Slovenia
8. Porto, Portugal
9. Kraków, Poland
10. Strasbourg, France
14. Salzburg, Austria
15. Córdoba, Spain