It's that time of year when we're all getting a little fed up with the seemingly infinite winter and we're looking to the summer months and dreaming of holiday destinations. At this time of year any form of holiday has never seemed further away (probably) and the only proven way to pull through this slump (possibly) is to focus on places to which you can escape during your next holiday, eons away though that may be.
This need to escape seems to be universal, with the International Medical Journal reporting an increase in tourists of 5% — or 25 million people — worldwide in 2013, as compared to figures in 2012. For many, both cheap and cheerful are key factors in deciding where to holiday - so where better to look for travel inspiration than popular spots around Europe? Since the continent is a major cultural melting pot, taking a Eurotrip is exactly what many people look for in terms of a well-rounded and varied holiday. From students hopping on a train and touring the continent with a backpack, to couples renting a car and exploring the exotic hills and plains of Eastern Europe, this list compiles ten of Europe's most popular stop-offs, based on which countries have cultivated the most tourism in recent years.
10 Stockholm, Sweden
Sweden has enjoyed an increase in tourism in recent years, and where better for the uncertain traveller of Scandinavia to begin than the city of Stockholm? The city is a perfect example of an up-and-coming destination with attractions to appeal to everyone. For the contemporary art fan, there is the Moderna Museet, home to numerous exhibitions including ones based on Surrealism and on Duchamp. For the outdoorsy, there is the archipelago, a cluster of thousands of islands, rocks and skerries that stretch into the Baltic Sea. In addition, for the romance-seekers there's the potential for dinner at the Gondolen, or a stroll along the Monteliusvägen, which is noted to be "a popular place to get engaged" (so do be careful who you take there).
9 The Hague, The Netherlands
Rapidly overtaking Amsterdam as the city to visit in the Netherlands, The Hague is now a hotspot for many Euro-tourists. Combining the attractions of both the city and the beach, it provides a pace for every traveller. The Haagse Market on Herman Costerstraat is the largest open-air market in Europe, and is renowned for the colourful spectacle it provides, and for its amazingly international atmosphere. For those looking for a more outdoor-based holiday, the beach of Scheveningen offers something for both the sporty and those who are anti-sport: the South Beach (or Zuiderstrand) is known for relaxation and sunbathing, while the North Beach (Noorderstrand) is famed for its watersports, and is home to numerous surf schools and beach clubs.
8 Krakow, Poland
Deemed by popular opinion the most attractive Polish city in terms of tourists, Krakow is billed "southern Poland's metropolis". As well as the typical (by European standards) myriad of monuments, spectacular buildings and landmarks, Krakow offers some slightly offbeat attractions. Perhaps most notable of these is the city's custom of playing its medieval bugle call on the hour every hour, four times, in four different directions. As this odd undertaking occurs in St. Mary's church, overlooking the central square of Krakow, it seems pretty difficult to avoid; as such, tourist may either love it or hate it - but they'll certainly have an opinion.
7 Santorini, Greece.
Along with the obvious choice of Athens, Santorini is one of the destinations of choice for those travelling to Greece. Looking every inch the quintessential Greek island with its sun-bleached buildings clustered on rocky heights, Santorini is in the most southern part of the Cyclades and comes highly recommended as the Greek island to visit. As is common with such islands, Santorini offers a choice of two volcanic lands (Palea Kameni and Nea Kameni), both of which can be visited by boat. Santorini's beaches are also a force to be reckoned with, each one bearing uniquely distinguishing characteristics; the beaches Perissa and Perivolos are black-sanded, for example. If beach holidays are your thing, there is probably literally nowhere on earth better to look than Santorini - and as Europe's 7th most-visited spot, most tourists apparently agree.
6 Vienna, Austria
Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the most popular places to visit in the Republic of Austria is its capital, Vienna. As is the case with Krakow, Vienna has no shortage of impressive architecture (see the Gothic spectacle St. Stephen's Cathedral and the Baroque palace complex, Schönbrunn Palace). In a kitsch fashion, the city offers an unusual attraction in the form of a much-loved and iconic Giant Ferris Wheel. Originally built in the late nineteenth-century, the Wheel has its own square, and is a must-visit for the city's tourists.
5 Berlin, Germany
It's no shock that Germany's top tourist destination is the capital of the country, Berlin. The city has an enormous variety of sightseeing attractions, which include the Brandenburg Gate, the Victory Column, and, of course, the Berlin Wall. The very handily situated Berlin TV Tower (or Fernsehturm Berlin) is, at 368 metres, the tallest building in Germany and acts as a useful landmark for the tourist who fancies a directionless wander around Berlin's many straßes. The city's layout means that a meander around its streets will bring you by numerous tourist hot-spots without even trying, making it a great destination for those not inclined to make complicated (and generally stressful) itineraries.
4 The Scottish Highlands, the United Kingdom
For the sake of diversity, this entry will not focus on the top tourist destination in England (London, naturally enough), but rather on a second popular spot in the UK at large, which is the Scottish Highlands in (unsurprisingly) Scotland. Located in the northernmost part of the country, the Scottish Highlands encompass a multitude of places, from cities like Inverness to small, sparsely-populated islands. The Highlands are a haven for nature lovers, offering an array of waterfalls, lochs and mountains. They are also home to a variety of crumbling castles, the earliest of which date from the thirteenth-century. If you're a fan of rich history and a bracing wind, this is the Eurotrip destination for you.
3 3. Venice, Italy
Often referred to as "The City of Water", Venice's multitude of canals makes it one of the most iconic spots in the country. Aside from the delightful novelty of navigating the city in water buses, there's a lot going on in Venice to appeal to tourists. The city is home to some impressive architecture, such as the Palazzo Mocenigo — once home to the illustrious Mocenigo family — the Ponte di Rialto, and the amazingly intricate Basilica di San Marco. Plus there's the option of a romantic gondola ride, which will entirely fulfill any wish for the quintessential Venice experience.
2 Barcelona, Spain
Capital of the Catalonia community, home to a world-famous football team and subject of a Freddie Mercury song, Barcelona is a must-visit for any holidayer in Europe. Its spectacular architecture would be reason enough for a trip to the city, with colourful, impressive and surreal buildings at every turn courtesy of architect Antoni Gaudí (who has an entire park in the city in his honour, the Park Güell). The amazingly wide Boulevard of Las Ramblas provides enough shopping opportunities to tire even the most extensive consumer, and the abundance of beaches provides the middle ground on which everyone's different tastes can meet (who doesn't love a beach?).
1 Seine-et-Marne, France
At number one is a move away from the typical avocation of the city of Paris as the only feasible destination when a tourist in France. Seine-et-Marne, although located less than an hour away from Paris, seems very far removed from the city's lights and bustle. The town's pleasingly quaint architecture almost calls to mind a typical small English village. Seine-et-Marne contains the Fontainebleau Castle and Forest, which is today one of France's most popular tourist attractions. Dating back from the 12th century, it began as a royal hunting park. Nowadays, its many attractions appeal to all sorts of tourists, from the sporty to the history buff. As well as its main feature of the castle and grounds, Seine-et-Marne offers the Blandy les Tours castle and frequent medieval fairs. An unusual holiday destination that's a bit off the beaten track, paying a visit to the town will make your Eurotrip one to remember.
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