6 European cities with inspiring green initiatives

Urban hubs aren't usually associated with the greenest of places, but these cities across Europe are leading the way when it comes to sustainability...

4 mins

As World Earth Day approaches, we want to highlight the pioneering destinations making great efforts to protect our planet. Cities usually aren't the first place you'd think of when it comes to clean, pollution-free spaces, but as the fight against the climate crisis heightens, more urban centres are putting sustainability as a priority. From green-powered transport, to waste-free hotels and carbon-neutral goals, these are some of the top cities to visit in Europe with visions of a brighter future.

Oslo, Norway

Oslo's Munch museum is part of a climate friendly development (Shutterstock)

Oslo's Munch museum is part of a climate friendly development (Shutterstock)

Norway’s capital was picked by Wanderlust editor’s as one our hot list destinations for 2022, and for good reason. The city has teamed up with FutureBuilt to produce a series of buildings which support climate friendly development and minimise the city’s carbon footprint. Some of the most recent projects include the Edvard Munch museum, dedicated to the life and work of ‘The Scream’ artist, and coming in June is the new National Museum of Norway, where visitors can browse more than 5,000 art, design and architectural works. There’s even been a whole new sustainable neighbourhood introduced to Oslo in recent years. Vulkan sits on the bank of the river Akerselva and has a local energy centre with geothermal wells and buildings with solar water heating systems, to name a few of its great initiatives.

Vilnius, Lithuania

Vilnius is tackling deforestation (Shutterstock)

Vilnius is tackling deforestation (Shutterstock)

Lithuania’s capital is well on its way to bringing back the natural side to its urban centre. A recent project named the Green Wave Initiative has brought together local communities and encouraged the planting of trees, shrubs and climbing vines around the city, transforming it into a more enjoyable, cosier green space and promoting afforestation. A total of 300,000 trees are expected to be planted during this two-year period. Vilnius is already one of the greenest cities in Europe, with nearly 50% dedicated to gardens, parks, forests and other natural spaces.

València, Spain

Valencia is reducing traffic around the city (Shutterstock)

Valencia is reducing traffic around the city (Shutterstock)

València is hard to beat in terms of its efforts for sustainability in recent years, but its eco-initiatives are shining especially bright now. First of all, it’s encouraging greener travel around the city. A new 5km metro line has been developed, several areas have been pedestrianised, and hundreds of kilometres of cycling routes have been constructed. You can also tuck into some scrumptious Spanish cuisine, including València's favourite dish, paella, while knowing the ingredients have not travelled far at all, as the city is surrounded by natural pantries of fields and the Mediterranean sea. All this and much more has been recognised, as the city takes the crown for European Capital of Smart Tourism 2022.

Gothenburg, Sweden

Gothenburg is the world's most sustainable destination (Shutterstock)

Gothenburg is the world's most sustainable destination (Shutterstock)

Another one for the Nordics, but this Swedish city is really a leading example of how destinations should be fighting the climate crisis. Gothenburg has won the title of World’s Most Sustainable Destination by the Global Sustainability Index several years in a row. It’s had an impressive turn-around since the 1980s, when it was once considered a polluted port town. Now, it’s as green as you can get. When you visit, it’s likely you’ll be staying in a hotel which is eco-certified, with many sourcing their electricity from wind turbines, recycling most of their waste, and have said good riddance to any single-use plastic. In fact, you’ll find sustainability wherever you wander among the neoclassical architecture, from the local restaurants and cafes to local clothing shops. Even the air has been cleaned. A trip to green Gothenburg is truly inspirational.

Grenoble, France

Grenoble is the European Green Capital for 2022 (Shutterstock)

Grenoble is the European Green Capital for 2022 (Shutterstock)

The ‘Capital of the French Alps’ has also claimed another ‘capital’ title in 2022. European Green Capital, in fact. You can’t get much greener than that. Probably best known for its Bastille Hill cable car, Grenoble has also built a reputation for its sustainability. Getting around has never been easier with more than 300km of cycle lanes developed, and the city has also planted more than 5,500 trees in the past eight years, so you can explore Grenoble's historic castles, churches and forts while admiring the new growth, and know this is a city looking to the future.

Nijmegen, Netherlands

Nijmegen has won awards for its impressive flood defence (Shutterstock)

Nijmegen has won awards for its impressive flood defence (Shutterstock)

A previous Green Capital winner is this oldest city in the Netherlands. Although it will feel you’ve gone back in time on a trip to Nijmegen, with its historic streets, architecture and plazas, the city is actually thinking ahead. One of its award-winning projects was its River Waal flood defence, which has combined to make a recreational space for the locals. Nijmegen is also home to one of only seven Green Michelin Star food establishments in the Netherlands. Restaurant de Nieuwe Winkel's head chef forages for local ingredients, including mosses, leaves, plants and fungi. Many of the hotels here are ensuring sustainability is at the forefront, while a transportation project called Zonnentrein (meaning the sun train) is a solar-powered public bus across the city.

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