There are 26 countries in the Schengen Area and every single one of them has an array of exciting, beautiful, and unique destinations and experiences awaiting you.
So if you’re not sure what places are must-sees during your upcoming trip to Europe, check out our list below of the ultimate attractions in each Schengen country. Some are incredibly popular destinations and others are hidden gems, suggested by locals of the countries themselves!
Located in Vienna, this Baroque-style palace was once the summer residence of the imperial family. It has 1,441 rooms as well as beautiful gardens that feature a maze, an orangery, and several greenhouses.
Tucked between the Hallstätter See and the Dachstein mountains, Hallstatt is Austria’s oldest village. Since prehistoric times, it has been known for its production of salt. Visitors to the area can check out its breathtaking scenery and subterranean salt lake as well as see the mummy of a prehistoric miner preserved in salt.
The Kahlenberg is a 1,588-foot mountain located in the Vienna Woods that offers a view of the entire city of Vienna. At the highest point is the Stefaniewarte viewing tower.
“Kahlenberg is a perfect example of Austrian nature, mixed with a couple lovely and cozy traditional Austrian cafes on the end station, which makes it a perfect place to visit in the early autumn or spring!”
- Tia, Austrian local
Bruges is located in the northwest part of Belgium and is the capital of the province of West Flanders. Visitors can walk along its many canals or climb the belfry’s 366 steps to get an amazing view of this beautiful city.
Napoleon was defeated during the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 by the Duke of Wellington and his troops. He was then exiled to the remote island of Saint Helena, where he died six years later. Today, tourists can visit the site where the battle took place. Be sure to climb to the top of the Lion’s Mound to get the best view of the battlefield.
History buffs might know the Ardennes as the site of the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. Located in southeast Belgium and extending into parts of Luxembourg, Germany, and France, this beautiful terrain is composed of dense forests, rivers, valleys, and caves. It’s the perfect location for walking, cycling, fishing, and canoeing as well as exploring the area’s picturesque villages.
3. Czech Republic
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Prague Castle is the largest castle in the world, occupying more than 750,000 square feet. Founded around 880, the complex features an array of architectural styles from different centuries. Throughout history, it has been the seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia. Now, it is used as the official office of the president of the Czech Republic.
Explore one of the country’s incredible natural wonders—a series of underground limestone caverns and gorges located north of Brno. While there, be sure to check out the Macocha Abyss, a 543-foot gorge that was formed when a ceiling of one of the caverns collapsed.
Built between 1928 and 1930, Villa Tugendhat is a three-story villa located in Brno. It is considered one of the prototypes of modern architecture.
Tivoli Gardens is a popular amusement park located in Copenhagen. Founded in 1843, it is the second-oldest operating amusement park in the world. The oldest, Dyrehavsbakken, is also located in Denmark.
Bornholm is a Danish island located east of Denmark in the Baltic Sea. Visitors can walk along the granite coastline, enjoy regional delicacies and beautiful scenery, and explore the island’s unique round churches.
Denmark’s Legoland, opened in 1968, is the original Legoland park. Visit Mini Land to see 1:20 scale models of famous sites in Denmark and other parts of the world built using tens of millions of Lego bricks.
“Jesperhus Feriepark is a park filled with different kinds of flowers, in all colors, that are usually lined up in creative patterns as well as sculptures. Honestly, spending a summer day there in the sun is incredible and the pictures you get are brilliant. It'll be a fun and pretty summer day.”
- Cecilie, Danish local
If you find yourself in Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, you’ll want to make sure you visit its Old Town. Considered to be one of the best-preserved medieval cities in northern Europe, it is filled with churches, barns, warehouses, and cobblestone streets from the Middle Ages.
A hidden gem in the southern Estonian forests, this town features scenic views, castle ruins, and a nearby lake and beach with boat rentals. It’s also the home of the Viljandi Folk Music Festival, held each year in July, as well as a number of other festivals and fairs.
Its name means “land of bogs,” so it’s no surprise that 80% of the area is made up of marshlands. Soomaa is known for its “fifth season,” which is the time of year in the spring when water from melted snow and heavy rain flood all the lower forests and roads. Visitors can explore on foot as well as by canoe.
Estonia’s low-cost accommodations and cuisine make it the perfect destination for budget-conscious travelers. Here are the best tips for traveling Estonia on a budget!
Finland is one of the best places on earth to see the northern nights, as they are visible on all clear nights from about late August to April. If you’re not adventurous enough to try your hand at cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, there are plenty of hotels and other accommodations where you can peacefully enjoy the lights of Aurora Borealis.
Santa Claus Village is located about 8 km northeast of Rovaniemi—the official hometown of Santa Claus. Visitors to the village, which is open every day of the year, can meet Santa in his office. They can also explore attractions such as Santa Claus’ Main Post Office, the Arctic Circle Husky Park, Santa’s House of Snowmobiles, and Snowman World. In the winter, reindeer rides are also available.
The Arctic Circle cuts right through the village, marked by a white line where visitors can officially enter the Arctic.
Made up of around 20,000 islands and skerries, the Turku Archipelago is one of the largest archipelagos in the world in terms of number of islands. Much of the area is encompassed by the Archipelago National Park. The inhabited islands can be reached by ferry, and some are accessible by bicycle.
“Naantali is located a bit west from Turku. It is a tourist destination in itself because it's a really nice and romantic small town and Moomin World is there. However, I'd like to recommend walking up to the cliff of Kuparivuori to see the boats arriving to the city and feel the wind. The city also has many good restaurants located at the pier.”
- Rebecca, Finnish local
This royal chateau was the seat of political power in France from 1682, when King Louis XIV moved the royal court from Paris to Versailles, to 1789, when the royal family was forced to return to Paris during the French Revolution. The palace is now a very popular tourist attraction. Visitors can tour the grand interior of the palace as well as its beautiful gardens. Its most famous room is the central gallery—the Hall of Mirrors.
Also known as the Côte d'Azur, the French Riviera is located in the southeast corner of France along the Mediterranean coastline. The area is well known for being synonymous with luxury, elegance, and glamour.
For several centuries, it has been used as a vacation spot for the wealthy and elite. Its seaside resorts are the perfect getaway for beach lovers. Some of the area’s best beaches can be found in Antibes and Saint-Tropez.
Castle enthusiasts should definitely make time to visit some of the beautiful chateaux in France’s Loire Valley. A list of many of these beautiful country homes can be found here.
Located in Southwest Bavaria, Neuschwanstein is one of the Germany’s most famous castles. Built in the Romanesque Revival style, the palace looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. And there’s a reason for that—it was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s theme park castles.
According to legend, this densely-forested mountain range located in southwest Germany served as inspiration to the Brothers Grimm as they wrote their famous fairy tales, such as Hansel and Gretel. Looking to hike, ski, enjoy a spa, or visit a museum? The Black Forest has it all and more!
Many tourists come to this small mountain town in southern Bavaria to see Adolf Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, which was used by Nazi officials during World War II for government and social meetings and now serves as a museum. But there is plenty else to do in the area as well, such as visiting the salt mine and exploring the Alps.
“The mountains around Berchtesgaden are part of a national park which is great for hiking, mountain biking, paragliding and every other mountain activity really. Especially in spring and summer it's very green, with beautiful lakes and forests, cows roaming pretty much everywhere, and traditional Bavarian houses and huts/cabins.
Probably the greatest thing you can do is stay in a hut. Whether you spend all of your nights in the same one, or hike from hut to hut, it's a very special atmosphere, especially because you'll get to see both sunsets and sunrises from high up. People in the mountains, both hut/inn keepers and fellow hikers, are usually very friendly and talkative. And it's no wonder, really. Who could be unhappy somewhere so wonderful?”
- Coco, German local
If you’re in Athens, visiting the Parthenon on top of the Acropolis is a must. This former temple, dedicated to the goddess Athena, was constructed in the 5th century BC. It remains standing today as an enduring symbol of the once great Athenian Empire and the magnificence of ancient Greek architecture.
Santorini is located in the southern Aegean Sea about 120 miles southeast of Greece’s mainland—the largest island in an archipelago of the same name. These islands were formed by extensive volcanic eruptions over a period of hundreds of thousands of years. Today, however, the area is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful places in the world—with breathtaking views, clear waters, and white painted villages nestled among cliffs.
Greece’s second largest city, located on the Thermaic Gulf of the Aegean Sea, is home to archeological sites and monuments from the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman empires. It is also a vibrant, modern metropolis with amazing restaurants and beautiful views of the sea.
“If you visit Thessaloniki, those with a sweet tooth should not forget to try the famous tsoureki from Terkenlis. Salty food lovers should try souvlaki. It is a must! Apparently it tastes better there than in Athens (local secrets, shhh).”
- Sarah, Greek local
Buda Castle, which served as the residence of the Hungarian royal family, sits on Castle Hill in Budapest. Although originally constructed in 1265, the Baroque palace that occupies the site today was built in the mid-18th century.
This city in northwestern Hungary is located in the valley between the Gerecse and Vértes Mountains. Tourists can visit the famous Turul monument—a statue of a mythological bird of prey, resembling a hawk or falcon, that is an important national symbol of Hungary.
The Danube, also known as the Donau, is Europe’s second longest river. It flows through ten countries—Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, and Ukraine. It runs through Hungary from north to south, splitting Budapest into two sections, Buda and Pest, which were once separate cities before they united in 1873. Tourists can visit the Danube Bend or bike along the river on the Danube Cycle Path.
Planning to visit Budapest on a budget? From affordable accommodations to low-cost attractions, these are the best tips for visiting Budapest without breaking the bank.
This geothermal spa is one of Iceland’s most popular tourist destinations. The average temperature of the mineral-rich water in the outdoor spa area is 99 to 102°F, which stands in stark contrast to Iceland’s subarctic climate. Even in July, in the southern part of the country, the average outdoor temperature is only about 50°F. The water of Blue Lagoon is said to be highly beneficial for one’s health and skin.
Visitors to Landmannalaugar National Park, located in the south of Iceland, will be greeted with some unique geological sites, including its multicolored rhyolite mountains and sweeping lava fields.
Visitors to Iceland will not want to miss out on the magnificent ice caves in Vatnajökull National Park. The park, which was established in 2008, encompasses the Vatnajökull glacier—the largest glacier outside of the Arctic—and its surrounding areas.
Interested in learning more about Iceland as a travel destination? Check out these 5 reasons to add Iceland to your travel bucket list!
There is no doubt that the Colosseum, located in the center of Rome, is on the bucket list of many travelers. Although its construction was completed almost 2,000 years ago, in AD 80, it remains the largest amphitheater ever built. It stands today as a reminder of Rome’s ancient past in the midst of its modern surroundings.
Dreaming of a trip to Rome, but not sure if you can afford it? Check out these tips for traveling Rome on a budget!
In AD 79, Mount Vesuvius erupted and destroyed the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, burying it under volcanic ash and pumice. Although a devastating event, it preserved the city in detail, and today tourists flock to the site to see its buildings, streets, art, and even human remains. If you want to avoid large crowds, you may wish to visit Ercolano (also known as Herculaneum) instead. Like Pompeii, it was destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted, but it receives significantly fewer tourists.
When you think of Venice, one of the first things that comes to mind is probably its canals. The city is made up of 118 small islands, which are separated by canals and linked by bridges. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience the city’s charms while taking a gondola ride.
“I would recommend smaller villages like the one I live in called Idro (in the province of Brescia in Lombardy), which is on a smaller lake between two of the biggest ones in Italy. It also has some really interesting historical sights, like a Venetian fortress that was restored and used by Napoleon.
There are also Roman village ruins and other World War stuff since it's situated where the old border with Austria was. But in general I think that smaller villages in Italy are sometimes much more picturesque than famous tourist destinations, which are of course beautiful, but sometimes over touristic.
Italians are really welcoming and proud of their traditions and territory, so if you accept an Italian's hospitality, you could discover more about Italy than you ever would by going around Rome with a tour guide.”
- Giulia, Italian local
Considering a trip to Florence? Here are 5 reasons you should add the city to your travel bucket list!
Latvia’s capital city is located on the Baltic Sea at the mouth of the River Daugava. It is the largest city in the three Baltic states and is home to one-third of Latvia’s population. The area of the city called Centrs is filled with gorgeous buildings built in the Art Nouveau style that was popular in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
Also known as Devil’s Lake, Velnezers is a small lake in the Grāveri forest near Aglona. Its green-blue water is so clear that it is possible in certain places to see as far down as 12 meters into this 17-meter lake.
“This is a place that many people believe has charged energy. The lake has no aquatic plants, animals don't go near the lake to drink, and there are practically no fish living in the lake.”
- Marta, Latvian local
With a width of 100 meters (328 feet), Venta Waterfall is the widest waterfall in Europe. It is located in Kuldīga, a town in western Latvia.
The Principality of Liechtenstein is the fourth smallest country in Europe at 62 square miles. Its capital is Vaduz, a town with only about 5,000 residents. Vaduz Castle, the private residence of the prince of Liechtenstein, is not open to the public, but you’ll want to be sure to get pictures of its exterior.
This medieval fortress, located on a hill above the village of Balzers in southern Liechtenstein, is open to visitors free of charge at any time throughout the year. Guided tours are available by appointment between May and October.
Lithuania’s capital is located in the southeastern part of the country. Visitors to the city will want to visit its Old Town, which is one of the largest surviving medieval old towns in Northern Europe. This area of the city has beautiful architecture and monuments, such as the Church of St. Anne.
Before World War II, Vilnius was also a thriving Jewish center and there are plenty of places to visit for those interested in exploring this important cultural part of the city’s past.
Located about 17 miles west of Vilnius, the small town of Trakai is a popular tourist destination due to its unique architectural structures. It is home to the Trakai Island Castle as well as one of the few surviving wooden synagogues with an interior dome.
Over 100,000 crosses have been placed on this hill near the city of Šiauliai over the last couple centuries, making it truly a sight to behold for religious and non-religious visitors alike.
Luxembourg was once surrounded by a fortress so impregnable that it was dubbed the “Gibraltar of the North.” Although most of the fortress was dismantled in the late 1800s, the Old Quarter in Luxembourg is still filled with beautiful gardens, cobbled streets, and historic buildings.
You can find the entrance to the casemates, an underground network of passageways that remain intact from Luxembourg’s old fortress, on the Bock cliff.
The Schhueberfouer is an annual festival that has been held in Luxembourg since 1340. Attendees can enjoy rides, food, and drinks. In 2018, the 678th Schueberfouer will be held from August 23 to September 9.
“Clervaux is really beautiful, and the north in general has really nice nature, where you can take a long walk or drive around with your bike easily. The further you go to the south, the more urban it becomes.”
- Jenny, Luxembourgish local
Construction on Malta’s capital city began in the 1560s under the supervision of Italian architect Francesco Laparelli, an assistant of Michelangelo. The grid plan and small size of the city make it easy for tourists to navigate as they explore Valetta’s beautiful gardens, museums, and churches, including the opulent Saint John’s Co-Cathedral.
Located in the northern region of Malta, Mdina was the island’s capital up until the medieval period. According to the legend, St. Paul the Apostle lived in Mdina after being shipwrecked in Malta in AD 60. The hilltop town, which has a population of only around 300 people, is still confined within its ancient walls. Visitors must pass through its main gate in order to enter, an act that can almost feel as if one is walking back in time.
Gozo is the second largest island in the Maltese archipelago, after Malta itself. Lovers of ancient Greek literature may want to consider a stop here, as it is thought to be the island where the nymph Calypso lives in Homer’s Odyssey.
With plenty of historical sites and a spectacular coastline, Gozo is a great place to explore and perhaps go for a swim in the sea.
“Try Maltese food. You’ll thank me later. The food at Nenu the Artisan Baker is lovely.”
- Helena, Maltese local
The Netherlands is famous for its tulips. And there is no better place to see some tulips than in the Keukenhof, one of the world’s largest flower gardens, located in Lisse. Over 7 million bulbs bloom there in the springtime—a beautiful and very colorful sight.
The Dutch national museum first opened in 1800 in The Hague before moving to Amsterdam in 1808. Since then, the museum has devoted itself to collecting pieces of Dutch history and art from the last 800 years. It currently displays over 8,000 works of art and historical objects, while its total collection is around one million items.
Zeeland may be the least-populated province in the Netherlands, but it is also home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The Delta Works is the largest flood protection system in the world—a necessity since much of Zeeland is below sea level. This impressive combination of dykes, dams, and sluices is a feat of modern engineering and definitely worth a visit.
“The Dolmens (or "Hunebedden") in the province Drenthe are ancient tombs dating all the way back to around 3200 B.C. The structures resemble the building style of Stonehenge, and it is still unclear exactly how they were built.”
- Karlien, Dutch local
Visitors to Norway’s second largest city, which lies on the country’s southwestern coast, will want to be sure to walk along its picturesque wharf—known as Bryggen. These colorful, traditional buildings now house boutiques, galleries, and restaurants.
If you travel up to the most northern parts of Norway during your visit, you may be able to witness a phenomenon known as the midnight sun. During the summer months, the sun never sets above the Arctic Circle. You can experience up to 24 hours of sunlight a day in these areas.
Stave churches are medieval wooden churches that were once common in northwestern Europe. Heddal, built in the 1200s and still in use today, is the largest stave church in Norway. It is located west of the city of Notodden and is definitely worth a visit if you get the opportunity. Chances are you have never seen a church that looks quite so unique.
Interested in visiting Europe’s Nordic countries? Check out our itinerary for traveling through Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland in two weeks!
Long ago, an immense primeval forest stretched across Europe. The Bialowieza Forest, which sits on the border between Poland and Belarus, is one of its last and largest remnants.
Conservation of the area’s diverse complex of ecosystems is an important focus. The forest is home to a large, free-roaming population of European bison (also known as wisent). In the early 20th century, the species was hunted to extinction in the wild when the last free-roaming bison were shot in this very forest. But today there are thousands once again roaming areas of Europe—descended from the few that had been kept alive in captivity at that time.
If you visit Kraków, be sure to check out Kazimierz—the city’s former Jewish district. Located south of the Old Town, this was the center of Jewish life in Kraków for hundreds of years before being destroyed by the Nazis during World War II. Today, the district is a bustling neighborhood filled with restaurants, galleries, and historical sites that celebrate its important cultural heritage. Every summer, the Jewish Cultural Festival is held there as well.
An estimated 1.1 million people died at the Auschwitz concentration camp complex from 1940 to 1945. The site is now the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, which is dedicated to the memory of all those who lost their lives there during this atrocity.
Ready to visit Kraków without breaking the bank? Here are the best tips for traveling Kraków on a budget.
This colorful castle, sitting on top of a hill in the municipality of Sintra, looks like something out of a fairy tale. Completed in 1854, it is a beautiful example of 19th century Romanticism.
It would be a shame to miss out on visiting the beach while you’re in the Mediterranean. The Praia de Marinha is one of Portugal’s most beautiful beaches, located on the Atlantic coast of the Algarve—the southernmost region of continental Portugal.
There are many charming villages to visit in Portugal, but Monsanto is arguably the most unique. The houses are built directly into the granite of the mountain on which the village is located. Some have even incorporated giant boulders into their structures.
“If you want to experience what life is like in the big cities, I recommend visiting downtown Porto, my home city, where you'll be met with great food and great company, with surroundings that mix the antiquity of the city with the new wave of modern buildings that come together to create a sense of comfort and hospitality.”
- Inês, Portuguese local
The High Tatras are a mountain range in northern Slovakia, located along the country’s border with Poland. The area is a popular skiing destination and is where most of Slovakia’s ski resorts are located. But there are also hiking paths for visitors in the summer to enjoy.
“There is a spot in the High Tatras called Popradské Pleso and it’s one of the most beautiful places I ever have been.”
– Lou, Slovakian local
Built around 900 years ago, Spiš Castle is one of the largest castles in Europe. It was abandoned and left in ruins after a fire in the 18th century, but reconstruction and archaeological research began in the area in the second half of the 20th century. It is now open to the public from April to October.
Pieniny National Park is located in the eastern Pieniny Mountains. One of its most popular activities is rafting on the Dunajec River. It is also home to a medieval monastery called Cerveny Klastor.
Slovenia’s capital is considered by many to be one of Europe’s hidden gems. Its historic city center is filled with medieval and baroque architecture. Visitors can also tour the remains of the ancient city walls of Emona—a Roman colony that once stood on the site of present day Ljubljana.
This lake, nestled in the Julian Alps in northwestern Slovenia, is a popular tourist destination. A baroque 17th century church stands on the tiny island in the center of the lake. Tourists can also visit Bled Castle, which is the oldest castle in Slovenia, dating back to the early 1000s.
This small town in southwestern Slovenia is best known for its Postojna Cave—an extensive karst cave system that is one of Slovenia’s top tourist attractions. The standard 90-minute tour even includes a train ride through parts of the caves.
Construction on this gorgeous Roman Catholic church in Barcelona began in 1882, and architect Antoni Gaudí worked on the project until his death in 1926. To this day, the church remains unfinished, although construction continues. It is expected to be completed within the first third of the 21st century, approximately 150 years after it began. The church is open to the public and the money from the tickets goes towards completing the building.
Located in San Sebastian, La Concha Beach was ranked #1 on Trip Advisor’s Top 25 Beaches in Europe in 2018. Whether you want to relax, walk along the promenade, or enjoy an array of sports such as surfing, windsurfing, or kayaking, you’re sure to enjoy a day out at La Concha.
This fortified medieval city is located in the mountains of east-central Spain. It is known for its casas colgadas, or hanging houses, that suspend over the sheer edges of the cliffs and overlook the Huécar River.
Located in the village of Jukkasjärvi in northern Sweden, this hotel was founded in 1989, and has been rebuilt every year since. It is made entirely from snow and ice blocks from the nearby Torne River. This includes the chairs, beds, and even the glasses at the bar.
This walled town on the island of Gotland is considered to be the best-preserved medieval city in Scandinavia. Tourists flock there to walk along its quaint cobblestone streets and explore the ruins, restaurants, pubs, and markets.
Visitors to Stockholm will want to make sure they take some time to walk around Gamla Stan—the city’s Old Town. It was here that Stockholm was founded in 1252. Its most popular attraction, the Royal Palace, is the official residence of the King of Sweden and is open to the public.
Sweden might have a reputation as a high-cost destination, but that doesn’t mean you should cross it off your list of possible vacations. Check out this helpful information about traveling Sweden on a budget!
Take a journey up the Jungfrau railway to Jungfraujoch railway station—the highest railway station in Europe, located at 3,454 meters above sea level in the Bernese Alps. From there you can head to the Sphinx Observatory to take in the spectacular views from what is known as the “Top of Europe.”
This city in German-speaking, central Switzerland is a popular destination for those wanting to experience its beautiful lakeside atmosphere. It is home to the oldest wooden-covered bridge in Europe, the Chapel Bridge, which was built in 1333 and stretches 670 feet across the Reuss River.
The only canton in Switzerland where Italian is the sole official language, Ticino has a Mediterranean flair that you won’t find elsewhere in the country. Located in southeastern Switzerland, the area generally enjoys warmer temperatures than the rest of the country and about 600 more hours of sunshine per year compared to Zurich.
Decided on your destinations? You may need to get a Schengen visa!
Here are some helpful resources to help you get started: