Colorful villages perched precariously along the seaside meet chic, modern cities and destinations steeped in tales of the past in none other than Europe. The continent's diverse landscapes are punctuated by stunning mountain ranges, rolling hillsides, and lush vineyards. Castles and centuries-old strongholds abound, and European history runs deep - so deep, in fact, that you can trace it to the first major civilizations. Learn about the Greeks and the Romans while traveling through cities where traces of their past remain to this day. Look upon sites linked to ancient royalty and those that belong to the people, like medieval squares in charming central business districts.
It is no wonder that people spend their years composing bucket lists of world-class European cities and adding to them tourist attractions, such as the Eiffel Tower, and beautiful places, like the Black Forest, that pique their interest. The time has come to take action on your list, and we are here to make it happen. Here is our list of top Europe destinations for 2023.
Over 2,000 miles of picturesque coastline welcome you to France, a gem of Europe's Atlantic seaboard. Travelers come from near and far to savor its decadent cuisine and sip wine produced in some of the most famous wine regions in the world. The undeniable lure and rich history of the cities, including Paris, Normandy, Bordeaux, Lyon, and Strasbourg, combine with spectacular countryside to create somewhere that appeals to travelers from all walks of life.
World War II history buffs enjoy an introduction to the beaches of Normandy, and romantics find themselves enamored with the undeniable ambiance of inland France on the Paris, D-Day Beaches, Normandy & the Loire Valley tour. If delving into the country's gastronomy is more your speed, check out the Culture & Cuisine: Paris, Champagne & Bordeaux tour, which spends nine days exploring beautiful places throughout France, each with unique culinary offerings.
Of the Europe destinations that sit atop bucket lists, Italy is undoubtedly one of the most enticing. Gastronomes desire its traditional cuisine, which varies significantly by region, while sightseers appreciate the changing aesthetics as you move throughout the country. From the colorful stacked cities that line the Amalfi Coast to cities like Rome and Venice, rife with historical sites, and the rolling Tuscan countryside, the views are as captivating as the culture in Italy.
See what makes the Boot so spectacular on our Highlights of Italy featuring Tuscany & Venice tour. This thoughtful journey explores hidden gems and well-known cities between Venice in the north and Sorrento in the south, with plenty of incredible stops in the country's heart along the way. If the countryside is where your heart lies, join the Explore Tuscany: Florence & Siena tour. Spend eight days sampling incredible food and wine and immersing yourself in the beauty unique to Italy's interior.
3. The Iberian Peninsula
Composed of two distinct countries with their own traditions and flavors, the Iberian Peninsula is one of the best places to visit in Europe for many reasons. The peninsula is tucked between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, allowing both Spain and Portugal miles of picturesque coastline to explore. Sunny skies, flavorful food, and destinations marked with unique traditions - from bullfighting in Madrid to flamenco dancing in Seville and winemaking in Porto - tempt millions of visitors annually.
The Grand Tour of Spain & Portugal is a wonderful way to experience it all. Discover why the countries of the Iberian Peninsula are some of the best to visit in Europe while exploring cities like Madrid, Salamanca, Seville, Granada, and Barcelona in Spain and Porto and Lisbon in Portugal. Each stop is somehow more impressive than the last, and you have a front-row seat.
Ancient castles tucked upon craggy cliffs and dispersed amongst lush green hills are just one draw to the beautiful country known as the Emerald Isle. Ireland has postcard-perfect topography and breathtaking natural attractions, including the Cliffs of Moher and Giant's Causeway. Its rugged beaches complement its small towns and lively cities, where Irish traditions run deep. Thanks to the country's thrilling combination of nature and history, Ireland tops our list of European must-sees.
Sip Irish whiskey, feel the rhythm in your soul during an authentic Celtic Steps show, and lose yourself in the wonders of the Irish landscape on the Dublin & Enchanting Emerald Isle tour. Travel by train between major cities, and enjoy plenty of time to soak in the views as you arrive in places that transcend the hands of time.
Travelers come for the Scotch whisky and stay for the scenery in Scotland. This country may be small in size, but it is abundant in its natural beauty, historical sites, and cultural draws. Over 900 islands lie off its coast, and the gorgeous Scottish Highlands invite adventure in the interior. Scotland has something for you, whether your bucket list includes trying to spot Nessie in Loch Ness or learning about ancient clans at ruined fortresses.
A showcase of Scotland's wonders lies ahead when you join the Edinburgh, the Highlands & Islands tour. Ride iconic trains, including the West Highland Line, the Jacobite Steam Train, and the Kyle Line, through the Highlands, and enjoy time in cities big and small. A true highlight of the journey comes as the group ventures to the Isle of Mull and explores Duart Castle. Each day brings a new adventure.
6. Swedish Lapland
Swedish Lapland is one of the last fully wild places to visit in Europe, an ethereal natural paradise where outdoor adventures are aplenty at all times of the year. In the summer, the midnight sun stays in the sky for nearly 100 days, allowing you to fish in Bothnian Bay at all hours of the night or hit a golf course after bedtime. The beautiful mountains and hills are rife with hiking trails to explore. In the winter, Swedish Lapland is one of the best places to see the northern lights dance across the sky. All your favorite cold-weather activities are waiting to fill your days with wonder, too.
Joining our Northern Lights & Lapland expedition is a memorable way to experience Scandinavia and Swedish Lapland. This journey begins in Norway and offers time in Oslo and Trondheim before setting you into the remote landscapes of northern Norway aboard a train lovingly referred to as the Polar Express. A day spent in the gorgeous Lofoten Islands is the pinnacle of the trip. From Norway, continue into Swedish Lapland and enjoy a ride on one of the world's most northerly railroads and plenty of opportunities to bask in the natural splendor of the aurora borealis.
Dramatic mountainscapes set the backdrop for adventure in Switzerland. Wander through charming villages free of cars and with centuries of history presented through architecture and cultural attractions. Boat across glacier-fed lakes, and find yourself in awe of the panoramas while riding the numerous scenic rail lines that explore the country from top to bottom. But there is so much more to this landlocked locale than what meets the eye.
The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland is the perfect platform to explore Switzerland's vast and diverse offerings. This independent tour sets you into the landscape aboard five scenic trains, climbs to the Top of Europe, and cruises the peaceful waters of Lake Lucerne. Between, enjoy time in beautiful places that illustrate Switzerland's different facets.
If you prefer an escorted journey, the Best of Switzerland by Rail spends ten days traversing the country's top destinations from north to south, east to west. Highlighted by six incredible train trips along picturesque routes and memorable excursions to hidden gems and historical sites, this trip fills any need for exploration.
8. The Imperial Cities
Of all the Europe destinations on this list, perhaps the most diverse are the Imperial Cities. Including cities like Vienna, Budapest, Prague, and Bratislava, amongst other fantastic locations, these cities exemplify Europe's long and storied past. Tourist attractions abound and range from palaces, museums, and ornate buildings to natural places, like the Wachau Valley. Rich history meets differing cultures to make the Imperial Cities one of the most enchanting places in Europe.
Discover a sampling of some of the most impressive of these destinations when you join the Grand Imperial Cities & Danube Cruise. This journey begins on land in Berlin and ventures through Prague and Budapest, where your luxurious Amadeus cruise ship awaits to whisk you down the blue Danube. As you sail, gaze upon impressive landscapes and ports of call that speak to the Imperial cities' glory.
The best places to visit in Europe are those that ignite your curiosity and feed your desire for adventure. We hope we have inspired you to get out and explore this year, and when you are ready to book, Contact Vacations By Rail for the best tour package options for your needs.