Albania, on Southeastern Europe’s Balkan Peninsula, is a small country with Adriatic and Ionian coastlines and an interior crossed by the Albanian Alps. The country has many castles and archaeological sites. Capital Tirana centers on sprawling Skanderbeg Square, site of the National History Museum, with exhibits spanning antiquity to post-communism, and frescoed Et’hem Bey Mosque.
Andorra is a tiny, independent principality situated between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains. It’s known for its ski resorts and a tax-haven status that encourages duty-free shopping. Capital Andorra la Vella has boutiques and jewelers on Meritxell Avenue and several shopping centers. The old quarter, Barri Antic, houses Romanesque Santa Coloma Church, with a circular bell tower.
Armenia is a nation, and former Soviet republic, in the mountainous Caucasus region between Asia and Europe. Among the earliest Christian civilizations, it’s defined by religious sites including the Greco-Roman Temple of Garni and 4th-century Etchmiadzin Cathedral, headquarters of the Armenian Church. Khor Virap Monastery is a pilgrimage site near Mount Ararat, a dormant volcano just across the border in Turkey.
Austria is a German-speaking country in Central Europe, characterized by mountain villages, baroque architecture, Imperial history and rugged Alpine terrain. Vienna, its Danube River capital, is home to the Schönbrunn and Hofburg palaces. It has counted Mozart, Strauss and Freud among its residents. The country’s other notable regions include the northern Bohemian Forest, Traunsee Lake and eastern hillside vineyards.
Azerbaijan, the nation and former Soviet republic, is bounded by the Caspian Sea and Caucasus Mountains, which span Asia and Europe. Its capital, Baku, is famed for its medieval walled Inner City. Within the Inner City lies the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, a royal retreat dating to the 15th century, and the centuries-old stone Maiden Tower, which dominates the city skyline.
Belarus, a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, is known for its Stalinist architecture, grand fortifications and primeval forests. In the modern capital, Minsk, the monumental KGB Headquarters loom over Independence Square, while the Museum of the Great Patriotic War commemorates the country’s role in WWII. The capital is also home to many churches, including the neo-Romanesque Church of Saints Simon and Helena.
Belgium, a country in Western Europe, is known for medieval towns, Renaissance architecture and as headquarters of the European Union and NATO. The country has distinctive regions including Dutch-speaking Flanders to the north, French-speaking Wallonia to the south and a German-speaking community to the east. The bilingual capital, Brussels, has ornate guildhalls at Grand-Place and elegant art-nouveau buildings.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country on the Balkan Peninsula in southeastern Europe. Its countryside is home to medieval villages, rivers and lakes, plus the craggy Dinaric Alps. National capital Sarajevo has a well preserved old quarter, Baščaršija, with landmarks like 16th-century Gazi Husrev-bey Mosque. Ottoman-era Latin Bridge is the site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which ignited World War I.
Bulgaria is a Balkan nation with diverse terrain encompassing Black Sea coastline, a mountainous interior and rivers, including the Danube. A cultural melting pot with Greek, Slavic, Ottoman, and Persian influences, it has a rich heritage of traditional dance, music, costumes, and crafts. At the foot of domed Vitosha mountain is its capital city, Sofia, dating to the 5th century B.C.
Croatia is an Eastern European country with a long coastline on the Adriatic Sea. Encompassing more than a thousand islands, it's also crossed by the Dinaric Alps. Its inland capital, Zagreb, is distinguished by its medieval Gornji Grad (Upper Town) and diverse museums. The major coastal city Dubrovnik has massive 16th-century walls encircling an Old Town with Gothic and Renaissance buildings.
The Republic of Cyprus occupies the southern part of the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean. The island (and capital city Nicosia) is divided with Turkey to the north. Known for beaches, it also has a rugged interior with wine regions. Coastal Paphos is famed for its archaeological sites relating to the cult of Aphrodite, including ruins of palaces, tombs and mosaic-tiled villas.
The Czech Republic, in Central Europe, is a country that's known for its ornate castles, native beers and long history. Prague, the capital, is home to grand 9th-century Prague Castle, a preserved medieval old town and statue-lined Charles Bridge. Český Krumlov, a small town in the South Bohemia region, is notable for its wealth of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque buildings, many of which house restaurants and shops.
Denmark is a Scandinavian country comprising the Jutland Peninsula and numerous islands. It's linked to nearby Sweden via the Öresund bridge. Copenhagen, its capital, is home to royal palaces and colorful Nyhavn harbor, plus the Tivoli amusement park and the iconic “Little Mermaid” statue. Odense is writer Hans Christian Andersen’s hometown, with a medieval core of cobbled streets and half-timbered houses.
Estonia, a country in Northern Europe, borders the Baltic Sea and Gulf of Finland. Including more than 1,500 islands, its diverse terrain spans rocky beaches, old-growth forest and many lakes. Formerly part of the Soviet Union, it's dotted with castles, churches and hilltop fortresses. The capital, Tallinn, is known for its preserved Old Town, museums and the 314m-high Tallinn TV Tower, which has an observation deck.
Finland is a Northern European nation bordering Sweden, Norway and Russia. Its capital, Helsinki, occupies a peninsula and surrounding islands in the Baltic Sea. Helsinki is home to the 18th-century sea fortress Suomenlinna, the fashionable Design District and diverse museums. The Northern Lights can be seen from the country's Arctic Lapland province, a vast wilderness with national parks and ski resorts.
Georgia, a country at the intersection of Europe and Asia, is a former Soviet republic that’s home to Caucasus Mountain villages and Black Sea beaches. It’s famous for Vardzia, a sprawling cave monastery dating to the 12th century, and the ancient wine-growing region Kakheti. The capital, Tbilisi, is known for the diverse architecture and mazelike, cobblestone streets of its old town.
Greece is a country in southeastern Europe with thousands of islands throughout the Aegean and Ionian seas. Influential in ancient times, it's often called the cradle of Western civilization. Athens, its capital, retains landmarks including the 5th-century B.C. Acropolis citadel with the Parthenon temple. Greece is also known for its beaches, from the black sands of Santorini to the party resorts of Mykonos.
Hungary is a landlocked country in Central Europe. Its capital, Budapest, is bisected by the Danube River. Its cityscape is studded with architectural landmarks from Buda’s medieval Castle Hill and grand neoclassical buildings along Pest’s Andrássy Avenue to the 19th-century Chain Bridge. Turkish and Roman influence on Hungarian culture includes the popularity of mineral spas, including at thermal Lake Hévíz.
Iceland, a Nordic island nation, is defined by its dramatic landscape with volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields. Massive glaciers are protected in Vatnajökull and Snæfellsjökull national parks. Most of the population lives in the capital, Reykjavik, which runs on geothermal power and is home to the National and Saga museums, tracing Iceland’s Viking history.
The Republic of Ireland occupies most of the island of Ireland, off the coast of England and Wales. Its capital, Dublin, is the birthplace of writers like Oscar Wilde, and home of Guinness beer. The 9th-century Book of Kells and other illustrated manuscripts are on show in Dublin’s Trinity College Library. Dubbed the "Emerald Isle” for its lush landscape, the country is dotted with castles like medieval Cahir Castle.
Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country and former Soviet republic, extends from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Altai Mountains at its eastern border with China and Russia. Its largest metropolis, Almaty, is a long-standing trading hub whose landmarks include Ascension Cathedral, a tsarist-era Russian Orthodox church, and the Central State Museum of Kazakhstan, displaying thousands of Kazakh artifacts.
Latvia is a country on the Baltic Sea between Lithuania and Estonia. Its landscape is marked by wide beaches as well as dense, sprawling forests. Latvia’s capital is Riga, home to notable wooden and art nouveau architecture, a vast Central Market and a medieval Old Town with St. Peter's Church. Riga's museums include the Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum, showcasing local crafts, food and music.
Liechtenstein is a German-speaking, 25km-long principality between Austria and Switzerland. It’s known for its medieval castles, alpine landscapes and villages linked by a network of trails. The capital, Vaduz, a cultural and financial center, is home to Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, with galleries of modern and contemporary art. The Postmuseum displays Liechtenstein’s postage stamps.
Lithuania is a country and the southernmost of Europe’s Baltic states, a former Soviet bloc nation bordering Poland, Latvia and Belarus. Its capital, Vilnius, near Belarus' border, is known for its medieval Old Town. It also has Gothic, Renaissance and baroque architecture, and 18th-century cathedral built on a pagan temple site. Hilltop Gediminas' Tower, a symbol of the city and the nation, offers sweeping views.
Luxembourg is a small European country, surrounded by Belgium, France and Germany. It’s mostly rural, with dense Ardennes forest and nature parks in the north, rocky gorges of the Mullerthal region in the east and the Moselle river valley in the southeast. Its capital, Luxembourg City, is famed for its fortified medieval old town perched on sheer cliffs.
Macedonia is a landlocked Balkan nation of mountains, lakes and ancient towns with Ottoman and European architecture. The capital, Skopje, is known for its sprawling Old Bazaar quarter and historic buildings turned museums, including the National Gallery of Macedonia, housed in a 15th-century Turkish bath complex. The southern city Ohrid, on a lake of the same name, has a medieval townscape and hilltop castle.
Malta is an archipelago in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast. It's a nation known for historic sites related to a succession of rulers including the Romans, Moors, Knights of Saint John, French and British. It has numerous fortresses, megalithic temples and the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum, a subterranean complex of halls and burial chambers dating to circa 4000 B.C.
Moldova, an Eastern European country and former Soviet republic, has varied terrain including forests, rocky hills and vineyards. Its wine regions include Nistreana, known for reds, and Codru, home to some of the world’s largest cellars. Capital Chișinău has Soviet-style architecture and the National Museum of History, exhibiting art and ethnographic collections that reflect cultural links with neighboring Romania.
Montenegro is a Balkan country with rugged mountains, medieval villages and a narrow strip of beaches along its Adriatic coastline. The Bay of Kotor, resembling a fjord, is dotted with coastal churches and fortified towns such as Kotor and Herceg Novi. Durmitor National Park, home to bears and wolves, encompasses limestone peaks, glacial lakes and 1,300m-deep Tara River Canyon.
The Netherlands, a country in northwestern Europe, is known for a flat landscape of canals, tulip fields, windmills and cycling routes. Amsterdam, the capital, is home to the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum and the house where Jewish diarist Anne Frank hid during WWII. Canalside mansions and a trove of works from artists including Rembrandt and Vermeer remain from the city's 17th-century "Golden Age."
Norway is a Scandinavian country encompassing mountains, glaciers and deep coastal fjords. Oslo, the capital, is a city of green spaces and museums. Preserved 9th-century Viking ships are displayed at Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum. Bergen, with colorful wooden houses, is the starting point for cruises to the dramatic Sognefjord. Norway is also known for fishing, hiking and skiing, notably at Lillehammer’s Olympic resort.
Poland is an eastern European country on the Baltic Sea known for its medieval architecture and Jewish heritage. Warsaw, the capital, has shopping and nightlife, plus the Warsaw Uprising Museum, honoring the city’s WWII-era resistance to German occupation. In the city of Kraków, 14th-century Wawel Castle rises above the medieval old town, home to Cloth Hall, a Renaissance trading post in Rynek Glówny (market square).
Portugal is a southern European country on the Iberian Peninsula, bordering Spain. Its location on the Atlantic Ocean has influenced many aspects of its culture: salt cod and grilled sardines are national dishes, the Algarve's beaches are a major destination and much of the nation’s architecture dates to the 1500s–1800s, when Portugal had a powerful maritime empire.
Romania is a southeastern European country known for the forested region of Transylvania, ringed by the Carpathian Mountains. Its preserved medieval towns include Sighişoara, and there are many fortified churches and castles, notably clifftop Bran Castle, long associated with the Dracula legend. Bucharest, the country’s capital, is the site of the gigantic, Communist-era Palatul Parlamentului government building.
Russia, the world’s largest nation, borders European and Asian countries as well as the Pacific and Arctic oceans. Its landscape ranges from tundra and forests to subtropical beaches. It’s famous for Moscow's Bolshoi and St. Petersburg's Mariinsky ballet companies. St. Petersburg, founded by Russian leader Peter the Great, has the baroque Winter Palace, now housing part of the State Hermitage Museum’s art collection.
Serbia is a country on southeast Europe's Balkan peninsula with northern plateaus and mountains with ski resorts to the south. Capital city Belgrade is home to Communist-era architecture and Kalemegdan Park, site of Belgrade Fortress, held successively by the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Stari Grad, the old city, is home to 19th-century mansions, plus opera and ballet at Narodno Pozorište (national theater).
Slovakia is a central European country known for its dramatic natural landscape and many castles. Near the Austrian border, capital city Bratislava features a pedestrian-only Old Town with a lively cafe scene. Rising on a hill above the Danube River, Bratislava Castle houses a branch of the Slovak National Museum, with displays ranging from Roman artifacts to 20th-century arts and crafts.
Slovenia, a country in Central Europe, is known for its mountains, ski resorts and lakes. On Lake Bled, a glacial lake fed by hot springs, the town of Bled contains a church-topped islet and a cliffside medieval castle. In Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, baroque facades mix with the 20th-century architecture of native Jože Plečnik, whose iconic Tromostovje (Triple Bridge) spans the tightly curving Ljubljanica River.
Sweden is a Scandinavian nation with thousands of coastal islands and inland lakes, along with vast boreal forests and glaciated mountains. Its principal cities, eastern capital Stockholm and southwestern Gothenburg and Malmö, are all coastal. Stockholm is built on 14 islands. It has more than 50 bridges, as well as the medieval old town, Gamla Stan, royal palaces and museums such as open-air Skansen.
Switzerland is a mountainous Central European country, home to numerous lakes, villages and the high peaks of the Alps. Its cities contain medieval quarters, with landmarks like capital Bern’s Zytglogge clock tower and Lucerne’s wooden chapel bridge. The country is also known for its ski resorts and hiking trails. Banking and finance are key industries, and Swiss watches and chocolate are world renowned.
Turkey is a nation straddling eastern Europe and western Asia with cultural connections to ancient Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Cosmopolitan Istanbul, on the Bosphorus Strait, is home to the iconic Hagia Sophia, with its soaring dome and Christian mosaics, the massive 17th-century Blue Mosque and the circa-1460 Topkapı Palace, former home of sultans. Ankara is Turkey’s modern capital.
Ukraine is a large country in Eastern Europe known for its Orthodox churches, Black Sea coastline and forested mountains. Its capital, Kiev, features the gold-domed St. Sophia's Cathedral, with 11th-century mosaics and frescoes. Overlooking the Dnieper River is the Kiev Pechersk Lavra monastery complex, a Christian pilgrimage site housing Scythian tomb relics and catacombs containing mummified Orthodox monks.
Scotland, the U.K.’s northernmost country, is a land of mountain wildernesses such as the Cairngorms and Northwest Highlands, interspersed with glacial glens (valleys) and lochs (lakes). Its major cities are Edinburgh, the capital, with its iconic hilltop castle, and Glasgow, famed for its vibrant cultural scene. Scotland is also famous for golf, the game first played at the Old Course at St Andrews in the 1400s.
Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. The country is known for its Norman castles, glacial valleys and mountains, Celtic and Christian monuments, and coastal links golf courses. Capital city Belfast is home to the political murals of the 20th-century ‘Troubles’ conflict, and the Titanic Quarter, showcasing the redeveloped dockyards where the famous ship was built and a contemporary museum, Titanic Belfast.
Wales is a country in southwest Great Britain known for its rugged coastline, mountainous national parks, distinctive Welsh language and Celtic culture. Cardiff, the capital, is a refined coastal city with a nightlife scene and a medieval castle with ornate Gothic Revival interiors. In the northwest, Snowdonia National Park has lakes, glacial landforms, hiking trails and a railway up to the peak of Snowdon.
Vatican City, Kosovo, Åland, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, and Greenland
Morocco, a North African country bordering the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, is distinguished by its Berber, Arabian and European cultural influences. Marrakesh’s medina, a mazelike medieval quarter, offers entertainment in its Djemaa el-Fna square and souks (marketplaces) selling ceramics, jewelry and metal lanterns. The capital Rabat’s Kasbah of the Udayas is a 12th-century royal fort overlooking the water.
Medieval Cities, German Romantic Road, German Timber Frame Road, and more.