The Top 10 Most Visited Cities In Europe In 2018 (And The Best Thing To Do In Each)

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The Top 10 Most Visited Cities In Europe In 2018 (And What To Do In Each)
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Need some vacation ideas for 2019? We've got a list of the best places to travel in Europe, based on the most popular destination spots on the continent in 2018.

Europe is a cultural epicenter of the world. It is rich with history and buildings that have been standing for centuries, much older than the United States.

It is home to all kinds of art spanning many movements: dark, gold-leafed medieval to the Renaissance spanning from what are now Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy, to highly intricate Baroque, emotional and individualistic Romanticism, to the intellectual last century of modern and contemporary art including surrealism and graffiti.

European art is not limited to canvas, either; it includes some of the greatest literary and musical works in the world. All of this art is well-documented in museums across the continent.

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Then there are more tangible, accessible expressions of culture, such as cuisine.

All of this on a continent with dozens of countries, all unique. A drive in the United States from New Jersey to Massachusetts can be equivalent to a drive from Germany to Italy, two very different countries.

Europe is home to millions of people, but its many cities attract millions more each year. The Americas have their fair share of the most visited cities in the world, but Europe is at a whole other level.

Euromonitor International examined 600 cities around the globe in 2017 and ranked the top 100 most visited cities through the number of international visitors in each. “Visitors” constituted of international arrivals spending at least 24 hours but not exceeding 12 months in the city. It does not count people who are paid employees working abroad, military personnel, transportation crew, or displaced people.

The study mostly depends on data from 2017 and includes part-year data from 2018 that projects the rankings of the cities for that year. Wouter Geerts, the study’s author, estimated global inbound arrivals to grow by 5% to 1.4 billion trips in 2018.

Almost a third (32) of the 100 cities on the list are in Europe. Two of them rank in the top 10 overall cities. This makes sense, as travel in Europe is easy and accessible through its myriad of transportation offerings through car, train and plane; there are also European Union perks, as most countries share the same currency.

Which were the top 10 visited cities in Europe? There are tons to do in each, but there’s only one top thing to do in each.

1. London

The center of one of the world’s powerhouses is the third most-visited city around the globe. London was projected to have nearly 21 million visitors in 2018.

It is filled with historical significance with countless sites to see and activities to do. The top thing to do, according to TripAdvisor, is the National Gallery.

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A post shared by National Gallery (@national_gallery) on Sep 2, 2018 at 2:51am PDT

With Brexit still unresolved, there is much to be seen about travel to and from London. Nevertheless, there is something for everyone in the massive city, from historical sights like the Tower of London, to the chic modern Sky Garden in the “Walkie Talkie building” at 20 Fenchurch Street.

Beautiful London in the evening sunset 

A post shared by London With Sage (@london_with_sage) on Dec 26, 2018 at 11:33am PST

2. Paris

Paris comes a few places behind London as the sixth most visited city in the world. Like London, the top thing to do there is to visit an art museum: not the Louvre, which comes in at number 8 on TripAdvisor’s list, but the Musee d’Orsay.

Another top experience in the city of love is the Palais Garnier. The national opera house is a must-visit for any fan of Phantom of the Opera.

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3. Istanbul

This city comes from a very different cultural background than the majority of cities on this list, as it was the center of the Ottoman Empire, which began at the conclusion of the 13th century. It has been called by different names throughout its long history, first as Byzantium and then as Constantinople.

The Empire, which had spanned southeastern Europe, northern Africa and parts of the Middle East during its height, was dissolved with the conclusion of World War I, leaving Turkey as its successor.

The Süleymaniye Mosque is the top thing to do in the great city, which hosted over 12 million visitors in 2018. Emmy-nominated Netflix show Chef's Table highlighted a chef in Istanbul, Musa Dağdeviren, in its latest season.

4. Rome

TripAdvisor lists nearly 2,000 things to do in Rome, one of the two Italian cities to land on the top 10 list in Europe. It is also unique as it hosts a whole separate state within itself, near the city’s center: Vatican City.

There is so much to do in Rome of Catholic significance, but some of its most popular sites come from its powerful pagan history. The Pantheon and Colosseum are some of the top places to go in Rome.

5. Antalya

Another Turkish city to make Europe’s top 10 is Antalya, which rests on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, over 400 miles south of Istanbul. It thus offers gorgeous beaches that open up to beautiful blue waters, such as Kaputas Beach.

The top thing to do in the city, however, is the Antalya Muzesi. The museum highlights the country’s history before the Ottoman Empire, with exhibits dating back to the Paleolithic Age.

6. Prague

Prague, or Praha in Czech, is another city of major historical significance in Europe. It was the capital of Bohemia, and housed many Holy Roman Emperors.

In more modern history, it was the capital of Czechoslovakia after it became independent from Austria-Hungary following the end of World War I, and then became the capital of the Czech Republic in 1993. Its incredible, vast history means there is much to do in the colorful city.

TripAdvisor ranks St. Vitus Cathedral as the number-one place to go in Prague, along with Staroměstské náměstí, or Old Town Square.

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7. Amsterdam

This city is not only filled with canals, but with plenty to do and see as well. It is the 23rd most visited city in the world, with impressive museums including the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum.

A must-see is the Anne Frank Huis. It requires special planning, however, as 80% of tickets for a specific date are released exactly two months in advance, and 20% are released on the website on the day of the visit. Tickets also mark specific time slots for visits, so the house never becomes overcrowded.

8. Barcelona

The Catalonia independence movement has shaken up the region recently, but Barcelona is still a top city to visit in Europe.

Most of its top things to do are seeing buildings built by architect Antoni Gaudí, with the Sagrada Familia being the number-one place to visit in the coastal city.

For a true cultural experience, Camp Nou is a great place to visit. People travel from all over the world to see one of the best soccer clubs of the modern day play at their home stadium.

A post shared by Alison Cerri (@alisoncer) on Sep 12, 2017 at 12:37pm PDT

9. Milan

Italy’s second city on the list is a three-hour train ride north from Rome.

Milan is home to one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s famed masterpieces, The Last Supper, or Il Cenacolo as it’s known in Italian. It’s second on TripAdvisor’s list of things to do in the city.

Tag someone you would eat breakfast here with  Cc: @fashioninmysouA post shared by Discover Vacations  (@discover.vacations) on Dec 27, 2018 at 7:07am PST

The top thing to do, however, is the Duomo di Milano. It is one of the largest cathedrals in all of Europe.

10. Vienna

Last but not least of the top 10 most visited cities in Europe is Vienna, the 34th most-visited city in the world. It is best known for its Baroque style: Schönbrunn Palace is an impressive example of it.

More specifically, Vienna had a major cultural influence on music from the 18th to the early 20th century. Many famous musicians performed in Vienna, including Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Brahms. The State Opera House, or the Wiener Staatsoper, is the world’s largest repertory music theatre.

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Alison Cerri is an editorial intern at YourTango. When she's not writing, she can be found on a run or at rugby practice. Follow her on Instagram.

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