The region of Alsace has passed between France and Germany a few times over the centuries. As a result, the capital, Strasbourg, is a cultural mix of both countries, in turn being uniquely its own. You hear French and German spoken indistinctly, and the city looks like no other place in Europe. Half-timbered German buildings and Haussmannian French rooftops share spaces by the Rhine river, in a feast of color. For an even more postcard-friendly setting, wild swans are a common sight!
Due to its history, Strasbourg is home to many of the most crucial institutions of the European Union, including the European Parliament. The official buildings, thoroughly modern and glass-made, are a stark contrast to the centuries-old city center. Strasbourg is a feast for the eyes!
Summer is the perfect time for travelers who cannot fathom the cold of Nordic countries to visit Helsinki. After months of enclosure over cold temperatures, Finns and expats take advantage of the hotter months by filling up the nightclubs and bars in celebration. Helsinki is a neo-classical beauty, originally built to resemble a smaller-scale version of Saint Petersburg. Surrounded by the sea and an archipelago, Helsinki is in full communion with nature, without losing the essence of a great capital. The imposing Suomenlinna fortress, often dubbed The Gibraltar of the North, stands proudly in the eastern flank, now a museum and major hangout.
The most significant upside to Helsinki? It feels like a small city despite being among the great northern capitals!
Hamburg is Germany's second-largest city, and it has been among the most important ports in Europe for many centuries. As a trade hub, Hamburg has a long-standing tradition of being a diverse and cosmopolitan city, and a proud one, at that. Its most distinctive feature is its series of canals, rivers, and streams; over 2,000 bridges connect the city. Hamburg should be experienced by boat, witnessing the impressing port and harbor the way it was intended.
Continuously inhabited since at least the 4th century, Porto is an ancient city - and yet, only now is it turning into a tourism hub. It's also home to one of the most famous vinos in Europe: Port wine. The entire historical center of Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its enchanting churches, museum and even palaces from the Arab occupation of the Iberian peninsula. Porto has the magic of cities by water, plus that inescapably Portuguese saudade, a longing for things that have been lost.
A small city despite being a capital, Ljubljana feels like a well-guarded secret. Slovenia has had a convoluted history as part of many different entities, from the Austro-Hungarian empire to Yugoslavia. The country now thrives economically, with one of the loveliest capitals of eastern Europe, with vast old bridges and traces of hundreds of years of cultural exchange. Beautiful parks and gardens, a breathtaking castle and even Roman ruins, Ljubljana has a bit of everything - and you'll have it all to yourself.
Although tourists often focus their eye on Madrid and Barcelona, arguably the brightest gem in the Spanish crown lies at the south, in breathtaking Granada. Although inhabited for over two millennia, Granada is most famous for its deep connection to the Arab world. Its most famous landmark, the Alhambra, was the last stronghold of the Moor settlement in Spain, and the most iconic example of Arab-Iberian architecture. Besides its noble history, Alhambra is now a city of students, with a vast nightlife full of people from all over Europe. Besides, Andalusians are famously charming!
No list of summer destinations is complete without a beach city, and there are few as beautiful as Split. Standing on the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea, it's a city of beach dwellers, like so much of Croatia. It's a fun place to hang out in the summer, with plenty of sporty activities like hiking and trekking. There are also plenty of landmarks, including a UNESCO Site, Diocletian's Palace, that also served as the setting for many scenes on TV show Game of Thrones.
For all its centuries of history and beautiful Dutch architecture, if there's one thing Rotterdam is famous for is its connection to trade. Home to the biggest port in Europe and one of the largest in the world, it's traditionally been a shopping hub. From goods from all over the world to sustainable local shopping and even Dutch delicatessen, walking through the Rotterdam markets is an unmissable experience. The beautiful skyline and its combination of old and new just add to this picture perfect!
A famously friendly city in the north, Gothenburg is known as the most welcoming place in Sweden. Home to two major universities, the strong presence of young people makes this a great party city, with all kinds of nightlife options for every taste. It's also stunning: with skyline views and the Göta river, plus its seemingly endless green areas, it combines the look of a thoroughly modern city with the colors and palatial-like architecture of another time. Gothenburg is continuously changing, and the harbor area may be the best example of the city's evolution. Once a hub for shipbuilding and industrial work, the old harbor has turned into a meeting point, with hip malls and American-style coffee shops, always full of young people having fun. Stockholm might be the industrial stronghold of Sweden, but Gothenburg is its bohemian heart.
Budapest deserves to be on every list of cities that can hold it. Dubbed "the Paris of the East" over its magnificent architecture and scenic views, the term hardly makes this beautiful city justice. Historically, the Hungarian capital was once two separate cities: Buda and Pest, separated by the Danube, one of the most famous rivers in the world. Buda, on the west bank, is home to the ancient walled city and many iconic old landmarks like the Buda Castle (and the entire Castle District) as well as the residence to the Hungarian President. The views on this side are spectacular, showcasing some of the most beautiful landmarks in the beautiful Danube light. Pest, on the west bank, is the more modern side of town, where the party gets going deep into the evening. Still, many spectacular landmarks are on Pest, like St. Stephen's Basilica.
Budapest is two cities combined into one majestic place. Here, modernity meets with the air of an empire, as it was once the co-capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A vibrant city, rich in history and with beautiful places on every corner!