Millions of tourists from all over the world are coming to and traveling through Europe every year. The continent is diverse in both nature and culture, and attracts all kinds of international visitors. Also, the geopolitical impact that European nations have on a global level for centuries is a huge factor for the massive flux of people visiting the ‘Old Lady’. Of all the numerous destinations across the continent, these are the top 10 European cities that attract international visitors. These are also cities that hold the top ten spots throughout the entire past decade, some even longer.
10. Berlin, Germany
Thirty years after the fall of the Wall, Berlin still breathes with that liberating vividness of a young, prosperous, and dynamic city. From a symbol of separation, it transformed into a cosmopolitan fast-paced metropolis at the heart of Europe. Over the past three decades, Berlin established itself as a city of unlimited possibilities for travelers. The mixture of its historical significance, spectacular nightlife, and the fact that it is the capital of Germany, Europe’s leading economic force, makes this city a magnet for tourists. Berlin’s 3,5 million inhabitants are hosts to nearly 6 million visitors per year.
9. Vienna, Austria
Baroque streetscapes, imperial architecture, masterpiece-filled museums, and historical heritage, alongside its coffee-house culture and high-quality life, put Vienna on this list of the top 10 European cities that attract most visitors. Apart from being regarded as the City of Music, Vienna is also said to be “The City of Dreams” because it was home to the world’s first psychoanalyst – Sigmund Freud. Unlike Berlin, which is among the prestigious “cities that never sleep,” Vienna is not famous for its nightlife at all – on the contrary, it’s a city that sleeps pretty well. Obviously, it’s not all about clubs – the capital of Austria with its 2,6 million inhabitants, is home to approximately 6,5 million tourists a year.
8. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
As the commercial capital of the Netherlands and one of the top financial centers in Europe, Amsterdam is considered an alpha- world city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) study group. The city is also the cultural capital of the Netherlands and the country’s top tourist destination. Amsterdam’s historic canals, numerous important museums, the Anne Frank House, the Royal Palace, legendary clubs and nightlife, the red-light district, and many cannabis coffee shops, attract over 6,5 million visitors yearly. Amsterdam is also one of the world’s most multicultural cities, with at least 177 nationalities represented among the 2,5 million inhabitants of the greater metropolitan area.
7. Milan, Italy
Milan is the hub of Italian culture, music, media, and sports. If you are a music lover, you can’t miss La Scala. On the sport’s end, it is the hometown to two soccer powerhouses: Inter Milan and AC Milan. The city is one of world’s fashion capitals and shopping centers. It offers an overwhelming dining experience, as all Italian regional cuisines are richly represented, along with others from the rest of the world. Whether for shopping, cuisine, music, nightlife, soccer, or the arts, Milan’s 3 million inhabitants are joined by approximately 7 million tourists a year.
6. Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is one of the world’s leading tourist, economic, and cultural centers. Its influence in commerce, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts secured its status as a major global city. Barcelona is an internationally renowned tourist destination, with countless recreational areas. It is home to some of the world’s best beaches. With its mild and warm climate and historical heritage, including eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, no wonder Barcelona is literary crawling with tourists from around the globe. With 519 hotels (as of March 2016) including 35 five star hotels, and developed tourist infrastructure. Barcelona is hosting nearly 8 million visitors per year. In 2017, over 150,000 protesters (out of 2 million residents ) warned that the massive input of tourists is destabilizing the city. Slogans included “Tourists go home”, “Barcelona is not for sale” and “We will not be driven out”. Nonetheless, tourists kept pouring into the city and still do as of now.
5. Prague, Czech Republic
Prague is the capital and largest city in the Czech Republic. It has been considered as one of the most beautiful cities in the world since Middle Ages. Adjectives such as “golden“, “city of a hundred spires“, “the crown of the world“ were attributed to Prague, throughout the centuries. Its rich history makes it a popular tourist destination and as of 2017, the city receives more than 8.5 million international visitors annually. Prague’s 2.6 million citizens are considered among the most hospitable and friendly hosts in Europe.
4. Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is a megalopolis rising above the edge of Europe. A city on two continents, it has served as a gateway between Asia and Europe for millenniums. Its main historical monuments and sites are located on the European side of the Bosporus and Istanbul plays an important part in Europe’s history. A magnificent blend of two distinct worlds, the city astounds with both its diversity and beauty. It hosts around 10 million visitors annually, with a record set in 2016 when approximately 12.6 million foreign visitors arrived in Istanbul. Now just add that number to the city’s 15 million residents and imagine how the rush hour looks like!?
3. Rome, Italy
Rome is probably the only city on this list that has attracted visitors for thousands of years. The Eternal City has highly influenced the world in its roughly 2800 years of existence, being a center of power, culture, and religion. Because the city is home to the Vatican, an independent country within Rome’s borders, it is often called the “capital of two states.” The city’s center is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, while the Colosseum is among the most popular tourist attractions in the world with 7.4 million visitors in 2018 alone. The Vatican is also a popular destination, especially the Vatican museums which are among the most visited museums in the world. Rome has a population of 4.3 million residents in its Metropolitan area and hosts approximately 10 million tourists annually.
2. Paris, France
I was quite surprised when I saw Paris in the second position in all of the relevant statistical listings. Paris, the cosmopolitan capital of France, is one of Europe’s largest cities, with 2.2 million people living in the dense, central city and almost 12 million people living in the whole metropolitan area. It attracts over 15 million tourists yearly, and a large part of the city, including the River Seine, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many iconic landmarks, such as the world’s most visited tourist site the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Louvre Museum, Moulin Rouge, etc. are part of this magnificent metropolis. Dubbed the City of Light and Capital of Fashion, it is home to the world’s finest and most luxurious fashion designers and cosmetics, such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint-Laurent, Guerlain, Lancôme, L’Oréal, Clarins, etc. Paris is a true marvel of European culture and history, a city that needs to be high up on everyone’s list of travel destinations-to-visit.
1. London, United Kingdom
Yes, it’s London! The foggy, noisy capital of both England and the United Kingdom is Europe’s top tourist destination, attracting over 20 million international travelers per year. Considered one of the world’s leading “global cities”, London remains an international capital of culture, music, education, fashion, politics, finance, and trade, throughout several decades. More than 14 million residents live in the city’s wider metropolitan area, making it the largest city within the European Union. Tourism is one of London’s prime industries, employing around 350,000 full-time workers in 2003, a number which is constantly growing. The number of hotel rooms in London in 2015 stood at 138,769 and is expected to grow over the years.