Europe has always been a dream destination for travelers, with its rich history, diverse cultures, and stunning landscapes. While some countries in Europe have always been popular choices for tourists, others emerge as trending destinations each year, offering unique experiences and hidden gems waiting to be discovered. In 2023, as travel becomes more accessible, it’s time to explore some of the top trending European countries that are capturing the hearts of travelers worldwide. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the top three European countries to visit this year.
Portugal: The Mediterranean Jewel
Portugal has been steadily rising in popularity as a travel destination over the past few years, and 2023 is no exception. Known for its captivating Mediterranean charm, breathtaking coastline, historic cities, and vibrant culture, Portugal offers an alluring mix of old-world charm and modern appeal.
Lisbon: The City of Seven Hills Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, is a city that effortlessly blends the past and present. Its historic neighborhoods, such as Alfama and Bairro Alto, are filled with narrow winding streets, colorful buildings, and quaint cafes. In contrast, the city also boasts a thriving arts and music scene, vibrant nightlife, and contemporary architecture.
One of the must-visit sites in Lisbon is the historic Belém district, where you can explore the Jerónimos Monastery and sample the famous Pastéis de Belém, a delicious custard tart. The city’s stunning viewpoints, like Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, provide panoramic views of Lisbon’s red-tiled roofs and the Tagus River.
Porto: The Wine Capital Porto, located in the northern part of Portugal, is a city celebrated for its wine, historic architecture, and the picturesque Douro River. The city’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a maze of narrow streets, colorful houses, and charming squares. Don’t miss the chance to explore the historic Livraria Lello, a beautifully ornate bookstore that inspired J.K. Rowling while writing the Harry Potter series.
Porto is also famous for its wine cellars, where you can taste the world-famous Port wine. A visit to the cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia, located on the opposite bank of the Douro River, is a wine lover’s delight.
The Algarve: Beach Paradise For those seeking sun and sea, Portugal’s Algarve region is a beach paradise. With its golden sandy shores, turquoise waters, and stunning cliffs, the Algarve offers some of Europe’s most beautiful coastal scenery. Cities like Lagos, Albufeira, and Faro are perfect for beach lovers and water sports enthusiasts.
Apart from its natural beauty, the Algarve is also known for its charming fishing villages, delicious seafood, and vibrant nightlife. Explore the Benagil Caves by boat or hike along the rugged cliffs of Sagres for a taste of Portugal’s stunning coastal beauty.
Portugal Travel Tips:
- Try local dishes like bacalhau à brás (codfish with scrambled eggs), and pair it with a glass of Vinho Verde.
- Portugal is known for its Fado music, so catch a live performance for a taste of traditional Portuguese culture.
- Consider exploring the Azores, an archipelago in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, for a more remote and nature-focused experience.
- Greece: Ancient History and Island Adventures
Greece, with its rich history, mythical tales, and breathtaking islands, continues to be a top destination for travelers in 2023. Beyond the well-known Athens and Santorini, there’s a plethora of destinations to explore in this Mediterranean gem.
Athens: A Timeless Treasure Begin your Greek journey in Athens, the country’s capital and a city steeped in history. The Acropolis, an ancient citadel sitting atop a rocky hill, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a symbol of Greece’s rich heritage. The Parthenon, a stunning temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, is the most iconic structure within the Acropolis.
Exploring the historic Plaka neighborhood and Monastiraki Square will immerse you in the city’s vibrant street life, while a visit to the National Archaeological Museum will provide a deeper understanding of Greece’s ancient past.
Santorini: The Postcard-Perfect Island Santorini, with its iconic white-washed buildings, crystal-clear waters, and breathtaking sunsets, has long been a favorite destination for honeymooners and couples. However, its appeal extends to all types of travelers.
The towns of Fira and Oia offer stunning views of the caldera and Aegean Sea, and the unique black sand beaches of Kamari and Perissa provide a unique beach experience. Don’t forget to indulge in local cuisine at a traditional taverna and sample some of the island’s famous wines.
Crete: A Mediterranean Gem Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and offers a diverse range of experiences. The island is home to ancient Minoan ruins, such as the Palace of Knossos, where you can step back in time to the Bronze Age. In contrast, the charming town of Chania on the northwest coast boasts Venetian and Ottoman influences in its architecture and cuisine.
Crete also features stunning natural beauty, including the Samaria Gorge, a national park with hiking trails that lead through breathtaking landscapes. The island’s beaches, such as Elafonissi and Balos, are known for their pink sand and crystal-clear waters.
Greece Travel Tips:
- Try traditional Greek dishes like moussaka, souvlaki, and tzatziki, and don’t forget to enjoy some baklava for dessert.
- Consider island-hopping to explore multiple Greek islands in one trip.
- Learn a few Greek phrases to enhance your travel experience and connect with the locals.
- Croatia: The Adriatic Gem
Croatia has been gaining popularity as a trending European destination for its stunning Adriatic coastline, historic cities, and diverse landscapes. In 2023, this Balkan country continues to captivate travelers with its unique blend of natural beauty and cultural heritage.
Dubrovnik: The Pearl of the Adriatic Dubrovnik, often referred to as the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Croatia’s most iconic cities. Its well-preserved medieval walls, historic Old Town, and charming streets have made it a must-visit destination.
Walk along the city walls for panoramic views of the Adriatic Sea and explore sites like the Rector’s Palace and the Dubrovnik Cathedral. Game of Thrones fans will recognize Dubrovnik as the filming location for King’s Landing.
Split: History and Modernity Split, another coastal gem, is known for its stunning Diocletian’s Palace, an ancient Roman palace complex that has been adapted into a vibrant city center. As you wander through the narrow streets, you’ll find shops, restaurants, and even apartments nestled within the palace walls.
Don’t miss the opportunity to relax on the city’s beaches, such as Bačvice, and take a stroll along the scenic Riva promenade. Split’s lively atmosphere and mix of history and modernity make it an appealing destination for travelers.
Plitvice Lakes National Park: Natural Wonder Croatia’s natural beauty shines in Plitvice Lakes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its cascading waterfalls, crystal-clear lakes, and lush greenery. Exploring the wooden walkways that wind through the park allows you to get up close to this natural wonder.
Hiking trails lead you to various viewpoints and offer opportunities to spot local wildlife. The park is especially stunning in the spring and summer when the waterfalls are at their most vibrant.
Croatia Travel Tips:
- Try traditional Croatian dishes like pasticada, peka, and black risotto, and savor a glass of Croatian wine or rakija.
- Consider exploring the coastal islands of Croatia, such as Hvar, Korčula, and Brač, for a more secluded and picturesque experience.
- Croatia is known for its rich cultural festivals and events, so check the calendar for any local celebrations during your visit.