For the 21st Annual Wanderlust Travel Awards, we asked our readers to vote for the places around the world that have captured their imagination and inspired their wanderlust. From sprawling metropolitans to historic districts, these are the top ten cities voted as the most desirable in Europe.
10. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mostar just makes the cut into our reader-voted top ten European cities. This beautiful and culturally rich city suffered terribly during the Balkan conflict, but has undergone reconstruction to bring back to life its most cherished landmarks. The iconic 16th century Stari Most bridge was rebuilt using its original stone; so too was the Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque, which sits on the edge of the Neretva River and overlooks the old town. We predict a great future in tourism for this rising star.
Home to Mozart and the Sound of Music, scenic Salzburg remains a highflyer when it comes to travellers' favourite cities. This picturesque metropolitan boasts medieval and baroque architecture, fascinating museums, and its historic centre recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s extraordinary natural surroundings of the Eastern Alps make it even more appealing.
There's much to love about Denmark's capital. Copenhagen attracts visitors for its multicoloured harbour houses, cosy café culture with splendid pastries, superb cycling and hygge charm. It also is home to one of the oldest monarchies in the world, and also the oldest theme park, Tivoli Gardens. For a dose of culture, visit one of its many contemporary art galleries and its Vesterbro district.
Sitting on the Garonne River in southwestern France, Bordeaux has certainly come up the ranks in recent years, transforming its worn out centre into a vibrant hub. Its UNESCO-listed 18th century architecture still shines, but France’s wine capital is now attracting a hip new crowd, enjoying its lively bars and restaurants, relaxing riverside and new(ish) attractions, including La Cité du Vin wine museum.
Although a city, Ljubljana is often praised for being gloriously green, both in space and its actions. Tivoli Park, Rožnik Hil and the banks of Ljubljanica River are wonderful places for a nature fix, but the urban core is now mostly pedestrianised, making it a joy to navigate on foot without the pollution of cars. Wander chocolate box streets with architecture comparable to both Prague and Vienna, before tucking into fantastic cuisine and embracing culture at local galleries and museums.
The region capital of Andalusia, Seville is best known for its monuments, history and being the birthplace of Flamenco dance and music. Packed with incredible attractions including the Seville Cathedral and the Royal Alcazar of Seville in the Barrio of Santa Cruz, there is much to explore in this Spanish city. One of the best times to visit is during the Semana Santa, a week-long celebration during the holy week before Easter
Turkey’s capital is the only city to straddle two continents: Asia and Europe. Istanbul was once ruled by many different empires, with various cultural influences still reflected across the city, making it the unique, mysterious and historic destination it is today. Highlights include its Sultanahmet sites, fresh street food and traditional hammam (Turkish baths).
There’s no doubt Lisbon has been the top of many city travellers bucket lists in recent years – it even won Silver in last year’s Wanderlust Travel Awards. Built on several hills and overlooking the Atlantic, the Portuguese capital is best known for its vintage yellow trams and tasty Pastéis de Natas. As Europe’s second oldest capital, history laces itself through its streets and neighbourhoods, with stand-out landmark attractions such as Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower.
Missing out on the top spot is Estonia’s capital of Tallinn. The Old Town's cobbled streets, gothic architecture and thriving café culture creates a magical setting for a city escape, as well as being one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. Tallinn also has its own cuisine, with its first Michelin star restaurants introduced in 2022.
Croatia's walled city has received a staggering amount of attention in the past decade, and it looks like its popularity is only increasing along with the rest of Croatia. Its copper-coloured rooftops and cobbled streets give it a fairytale appearance, but there's much more to Dubrovnik than its looks. Here, you can relive history at its war museums and monasteries, then enjoy some of the country's finest hospitality at a cliff bar to enjoy a sundowner by the sea. What's not to love!
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