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European Capital Cities You Need to Visit

When it comes to Europe's capital cities, not all have the amenities and the landmarks to draw in the world’s travelers. Some destinations have high levels of crime, overly expensive accommodations, or a lack of green spaces and parks. Yet, many capital cities are hubs for Old World exploration, with long lists of architectural sites, culinary influences, or cultural endeavors. The highest-ranked cities offer something for everyone and leave a long-lasting impression on those who visit them.

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01Prague, Czech Republic

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It’s difficult to hone in on what makes Prague the most beautiful and inspiring city in the world. With breathtaking Old World architecture, comfortable weather, vibrant nightlife, and amazing culture, it’s a perfect mixture of the past with the present. The famous Charles Bridge crosses the Vltava River. It was built more than 700 years ago and withstood several wars and severe floods. Just 15 minutes from Old Town Square, you’ll find walking and biking trails in the lush Kuntraticky forest.

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02Paris, France

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Ask experienced travelers, and they’ll tell you that Paris is one of the most fascinating cities on the planet. Its world-class clubs and cocktail bars are the epicenters of its thriving nightlife scene. And, with more than 70 Michelin-rated eateries, there’s no end to the tempting dishes that await travelers who dream of the city's culinary creations. Paris is rich in history, art, and architecture, from its most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower, to extraordinary castles, churches, museums, and art galleries. More than 450 tree and flower-lined parks and gardens dot the city, perfect for relaxation and outdoor activities.

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03Bern, Switzerland

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As the gateway to the Bernese Alps, the capital city of Bern is one of those must-visit European cities. The local people here love fresh air and enjoying life, so you’ll find a slower pace in Bern than you would in Zurich. It’s a UNESCO Heritage town, settled 100 years before the founding of Switzerland in 1291. The city’s Old Town features charming outdoor cafes, arcades, medieval fountains, the famous Bern Clock Tower, and the Bern Minster, a Gothic-style cathedral built in 1421. It’s pedestrian-friendly, with plenty of outdoor spaces to picnic or take a stroll.

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04Budapest, Hungary

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The dramatic skyline, 19th-century architecture, and the Danube River, make Budapest one of the top capital cities in Europe. Here, you’ll find one of the most delightful thermal spring cultures in Europe, with 1500 spas surrounded by Roman, Turkish, and Greek architecture. Yet, Budapest doesn’t always come to mind as a top travel destination for travelers, despite it being much more affordable than many other European locales. This bustling city is home to the Buda Castle, once the illustrious residence of the Hungarian king. For spectacular nighttime views of the city, head to the castle grounds.

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05Oslo, Norway

Oslo is Norway's largest city, with more than 600,000 people residing here. It may rank among the more costly European destinations, but it’s also one of the cleanest, with a strong economy and a high standard of living. Because nature surrounds Oslo, you’ll find easy access to the magnificent, sprawling Norwegian landscapes. Yet, no trip to this fascinating destination is complete without a visit to the Oslo Opera House, one of the more modern architectural wonders you’ll find in the city and a popular year-round hangout for residents.

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06Tallinn, Estonia

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To see Tallinn from a distance, with its red-roofed buildings, pastel-colored houses, and charming Old Town square, is like looking at a lovely antiquated painting. Climb the winding spiral stairs to reach the top of the city’s walls for a bird’s eye view of this quaint but elegant locale. Explore the Telliskivi Creative City, a vibrant, bohemian hub that once served as the city’s industrial center. It’s within walking distance of Tallinn's center and is filled with cafes, antiques, artwork, and a flea market on Saturdays.

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07Belfast, North Ireland

Illuminated Belfast City Hall. Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom. benkrut / Getty Images

From top-level restaurants to stunning natural surroundings and deep cultural connections, Belfast is one of the most captivating cities in the world, as well as one of the safest. Access the city’s most famous areas, the Queen’s Quarter and the Titanic Quarter, by foot, in just a few minutes from the city’s center. It’s a delightful combination of the old and new, with cobbled streets, historic buildings, modern shops, and exquisite dining.

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08Moscow, Russia

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The history, the artworks, and the compelling architectural wonders work together to make Moscow one of the top European capital cities. The Kremlin is an outstanding example of design, as well as historical and political significance. It's located on the west end of Red Square, the site from which all main streets in the city originated. Both the Kremlin and the Red Square are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The city’s cultural magnificence is also legendary, with 170 theatres including the famous Bolshoi, home to the world-renown Bolshoi Ballet Company.

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09Pristina, Kosovo

Although it’s not famous for its beauty, Pristina is one of the top-ranked European capital cities for many reasons. Not only is it the center for politics and media in Kosovo, but it’s also home to many embassies and consulates from the international community. This newborn capital city is changing rapidly, with new apartment construction going up amid the outdated Soviet buildings that still stand. The coffee culture here is strong, and the city is brimming with cafes. After the work or school day is done, you’ll see the boulevard fill up with local people hanging out and enjoying life.

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10Vienna, Austria

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With a high quality of life, low crime, clean air, and a healthy style of living, Vienna is definitely one of the top European capital cities to visit. A rich, powerful, and wealthy family, the Hapsburgs, once ruled here, and the striking palaces that still stand around the city show clear evidence of their longstanding influence. Austrian art, music, and theatre have a respected history around the world, and Vienna is its center. Coffee shops are located all over the city and make ideal spots for socialization and relaxation.

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