15 of the prettiest places in Europe

Cinque Terre, Italy

Manarola village, rocks and sea at sunset. Cinque Terre, Italy. Credit: iStock: StevanZZ

The motley buildings of the five Cinque Terre villages tumble from their precipices to the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. Idyllic in every sense of the word, Manarola (pictured) is the oldest village of the Cinque Terre. It is linked to Riomaggiore by the famous Via dell'Amore (Lovers' Lane).

Bruges, Belgium

Canals of Bruges. Credit: Tomas1111

This beautiful city in northwest Belgium, a UNESCO world heritage site, beguiles visitors with its medieval streets, canals and lively artistic scene. Gastronomes, meanwhile, will delight in the world-class chocolate and excellent fine-dining.

The Azores, Portugal

Coastal path with hydrangea in Sao Miguel, Azores Islands. Credit: Pere Sanz

Azure waters, lush valleys and tiny fishing villages characterise Portugal’s beautiful Azores islands. Sao Miguel, or the “Green Island”, is the largest, and the most popular; be sure to take in the panoramas across twin lakes Lagoas Sete Citades from viewpoint Vista do Rei.

Barcelona, Spain

Park Güell, Barcelona. Credit: iStock: Ihor_Tailwind

Master architect Gaudí decorated Barcelona with colour, from the undulating Casa Batlló to the whimsical Park Güell and the famously unfinished Sagrada Família. A sweep of sandy beach completes the picture.

Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Fairy Pools in Glen Brittle, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Credit: Tomáš Bureš

The breathtaking Fairy Pools live up to their name; beautifully blue waters spill over rock into a cluster of ponds and reserves. This area is perfect for hikers and – if you can handle the chill – a spot of outdoor swimming.

Venice, Italy

Gondolas and San Giorgio Maggiore church in background in Venice. Credit: Jozef Sedmak

Gilded gondolas moored at the water’s edge, the rising silhouette of the Basilica di San Marco, decorated piazzas lined with palaces – this maze of canals and castellos is one of the most enchanting places in Italy. The little island of San Giorgio Maggiore (pictured) appears like a stage set across the water from the Piazzetta.

The Lofoten archipelago, Norway

Aurora Borealis in Lofoten Archipelago. Credit: Gutescu Eduard

The dreamy Lofoten islands boast old-world fishing villages, breathtaking scenery and some of Norway’s freshest stockfish. Travel between islands, drinking in the natural beauty en route – you may even catch an elusive northern lights display.

Giethoorn, the Netherlands

Giethoorn Village. Credit: Ekinyalgin

One of the prettiest small towns on the Continent, compact Giethoorn is woven with blossom-lined canals and bridges. Roads are non-existent here, so explore by boat or take in the characterful thatched houses on foot.

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

Cliffs of Moher. CreditL Altezza

One of Ireland’s most visited places, the Cliffs of Moher reach 214 m (702 ft). Nature lovers can spot fauna along one of the organised trails – the cliffs are the preferred nesting place for puffins, among other seabirds – and it’s also possible to look out across the Atlantic from historic O’Brien’s Tower.

Pamukkale, Turkey

Natural travertine pools and terraces at sunset, Pamukkale, Turkey. Credit: Oleksandr Ryzhkov

The incredible travertine pools of Pamukkale will have you reaching for your camera. With a name meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, this remarkable geological site is the result of mineral deposits. The ancient city of Hierapolis sits atop the formation.

Paris, France

Paris. Credit: Irina Palei

Paris needs little introduction. Its elegant, tree-lined boulevards, magnificent vistas and surfeit of spectacular landmarks make it one of the most visited cities in the world. Wander along the banks of the Seine, taking in Gothic Notre-Dame cathedral and the Eiffel Tower, and you’ll soon be captivated by its magic.

Interlaken, Switzerland

Old City of Interlaken, Switzerland. Credit: Olgacov

The gorgeous town of Interlaken sits neatly between Lakes Thun and Brienz, and is small-town Switzerland at its very best. People come to admire the fabulous vistas of Jungfrau, and also to ski, snowboard and even try their hand at canyoning.

Provence, France

Purple lavender filed in Valensole at sunset. Credit: Prochasson Frederic

When summer takes hold, Provence becomes a carpet of indigo. The region’s famous lavender fields are a beautiful (and fragrant) addition to an already charming part of France. If you’re not here in summer, the quaint small towns and tranquil olive groves still have a certain je ne sais quoi.

Santorini, Greece

Oia village at sunset, Santorini island. Credit: Mila Atkovska

The grande dame of the Cyclades islands, whitewashed Santorini boasts yellow-, red- and black-sand beaches, and some of the finest vistas of all the Greek isles. The legend that Santorini is based on the lost city of Atlantis adds to its enchantment.

Rome, Italy

Piazza Navona Square, Rome. Credit: iStock: KavalenkavaVolha

Steeped in 3,000 years of history, the domes and frescoes of the Rome draw many an appreciative visitor. Gaze upon the imposing ruin of the Colosseum, take in the impressive dome of St Peter’s basilica, and while away some hours on the Spanish Steps, decorated with azaleas in springtime.

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