If you’ve followed my blog even for a moment, then you know I’m all about getting off the beaten track. That’s why I’ve trawled through the data to find the ten most visited cities in Europe – so you can decide for yourself whether to brave the crowds or head elsewhere! 

Sometimes, though, all you need is to be a tourist for a day, and my list of the most visited cities in Europe – ranging from London to Istanbul – is a powerhouse of capitals packed with history, food and culture. If you’re planning a trip to Europe, here are the most famous, visited and popular cities – backed up by visitor numbers and data. 

Most visited cities in Europe 

1. London 

London, my home country’s capital, is a must-visit, and I can’t tell you how many times this sprawling metropolis has swept me up with its multicultural, energized outlook on life. This is one city that’s packed with great pubs and bars – which I love! London is also home to many iconic casinos including The Hippodrome and The Empire both located in Leicester Square. Other casino favourites in London include Maxim’s and Park Lane Club Casino, all offering a range of casino games including slots and table games alongside a fully licensed bar. You can also access high-paying casinos online on your visit to London if you do not fancy a trip to one of the land-based casinos, as online casinos are legalised in the UK.

There’s more to London than its drinking and casino establishments. The food is incredible too, and from the curry houses of Brick Lane to the street food of Borough Market, who needs the world when the world comes to London? With so many visitors, you’ll want to hit the lesser-known spots in London – like Greenwich, Camden or even Hampstead Heath, rather than the centre! 

Visitor numbers: 16 million per year (all visitor numbers taken from Statista)

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash.

2. Paris 

The age-old rivalry between the French and English – remember the Hundreds Year War? – still plays out in the tourism arena, as Paris and London vie for the top spot in terms of visitor numbers.

Since the pandemic, London’s number one ranking has been contested by Paris, who admittedly, had several million more visitors last year (as an Englishman though, I couldn’t bear to list Paris at the top of my article!). 

Paris is a timeless city, and while you should visit at least once in your life, I’d say that’s enough. In my opinion, Parisians are arrogant (come at me in the comments) and Paris lacks the multicultural embrace of London. Visit the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower and maybe have a croissant, then get the hell out of there. 

Visitor numbers: 19 million per year

Photo by Alexander Kagan on Unsplash.

3. Istanbul 

On the flip side, Istanbul – that megatropolis of 20 million people spanning Europe and Asia – is one city I can always return to, time and time again. With a story stretching back millennia, Istanbul has layers of history buried within Sultanahmet and deep below the banks of the Bosporus.

Visit iconic sights like the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Galata Tower. Have a Balik Ekmek (a delightful fish sandwich) on the Golden Horn, and hit up Istiklal Street for the bars and Kumpirs (a giant, fluffy jacket potato you’re going to love). 

Of course, with so many millions of visitors, getting off the beaten track in Istanbul is always good. Hop on a ferry, and cruise across the Sea of Marmara to Adalar, where you’ll find an archipelago of nine, car-free islands offering a green escape just an hour from the city. 

Visitor numbers: 16 million visitors

Photo by Anna Berdnik on Unsplash.

4. Barcelona 

The first time I visited Barcelona I was harassed by police on the beach and almost robbed. In fact, I think one of my friends was robbed and according to Euronews, in 2022 there were 225 reported thefts a day in Barcelona. Not to put you off visiting one of the most famous cities in Europe, but I like to be honest with my readers about what to expect, and the touristy parts of Barcelona are – in my opinion – best avoided.

Huge visitor numbers make for easy pickings, and when you’ve walked Las Ramblas once, that’s surely enough danger for one day. I’d recommend checking out lesser-known districts like Pobleneu – a former industrial area turned hip district – once you’ve seen famous sights like Park Guell. One day, you might finally be able to visit the Sagrada Familia in full (when it’s finally complete!), and of course, if you’re a football fan then the Camp Nou is a must-visit! 

Visitor numbers: 10 million per year

Photo by Logan Armstrong on Unsplash.

5. Amsterdam 

Okay, so despite my protestations against busy cities, I do have a soft spot for Amsterdam – who doesn’t really? Holland’s largest city is a shining beacon of liberalism, and there’s little you can’t do in this city (within reason!).

Of course, the Dutch tourism board has been famously attempting to change the city’s image and move visitors away from the infamous Red Light District. In 2023, the BBC even reported that they’d launched a new ‘Stay Away’ campaign specifically targeting young British men. 

In the same spirit, I’d recommend seeing the city in a different light too by checking out Amsterdam’s great cultural highlights, including the Rijksmuseum and the Anne Frank House

Visitor Numbers: 8 million per year

Photo by Adrien Olichon on Unsplash.

6. Madrid 

Another of the most visited cities in Europe is also a destination I’d recommend visiting at least once, maybe even twice in your life. The Spanish capital is far removed from the chaos of Barcelona, and – dare I say it? – an enjoyable city to visit.

I started my trip to Madrid off with a walking tour, which rather nicely, introduced me to one of the oldest restaurants in the world (Casa Botin, founded 1725) and what I like to think is a Spanish hidden gem – the restaurant chain 100 Montaditos, where everything on the menu is only one to two Euros (including beer and wine).

Of course, when you’re in Madrid you have to visit the Royal Palace and El Retiro Park, while I’d highly recommend a day trip to Segovia, where you can see one of the most impressive Roman aqueducts left standing anywhere in Europe. 

Visitor numbers: 6 million per year

Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas on Unsplash.

7. Athens 

Given that Athens has over three thousand years of continuous history, it’s quite right that one of the world’s oldest cities is also one of the busiest in Europe. I’ll admit it though, despite my enduring love for antiquity, the visitor numbers have always put me off visiting, and I’ve yet to set eyes on the Parthenon or the Acropolis.

I’m hoping to change that soon, as I really think I’ll love walking in the footsteps of the ancient Greek philosophers who theorised here about life and politics. It remains to be seen though, if I’ll enjoy the crowds and want to return, or if Athens will find itself going the way of Paris – where one trip in a lifetime is enough. 

Visitor numbers: 5.5 million per year

Photo by Constantinos Kollias on Unsplash.

8. Rome 

I’ve been to Rome twice now, and despite it being one of the busiest cities in Europe, I’d be happy to visit again. However, I’m not going to go for classic sights like the Colosseum or hectic tourist spots like the Trevor Fountain. I’ve seen them, and I’ve seen better elsewhere in the world – check out El Jem in Tunisia, for example, if you want to see a Roman Colosseum without any crowds. 

But I will return to explore lesser visited sights like the Appian Way, a history-laden trail that stretches into the countryside. Lined with catacombs and crumbling Roman Villas, the Appian Way was Rome’s original superhighway, and you can hike or e-bike your way along its polished cobblestones. 

Visitor numbers: 5 million per year

Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash.

9. Vienna 

I’ll say it, I didn’t like Vienna. I thought it was too busy, too crowded, and too expensive, but that’s just my opinion (feel free to change my mind in the comments). Vienna does have an impressive history though, and if I’m ever passing through Austria again, I’ll be sure to give it a second chance. 

After all, this is the realm of great cultural icons like Mozart and Beethoven. There are lavish Hapsburg Palaces, like the Hofburg and the Belvedere Museum, and of course, famous art galleries like the Leopold Museum. Maybe I was hasty, but even with such an exalted past, Vienna has a whiff of arrogance that only Paris competes with. 

Visitor numbers: 4 million per year

Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash.

10. Venice 

Last but not least is Venice, a city that’s so busy it struggles each season with the problem caused by overtourism. From polluted canals to rip-off restaurants, Venice has enough visitors already, which is why I’ve never visited the Italian city.

In fact, I have no desire to. From what I gather, this is a city where the locals are actively discouraging visitors, where the local government is reported to be launching a 5 Euro entrance fee (just to visit the city!) and where I get the impression I’ll just feel unwelcome. 

Instead, I’m going to try and visit lesser-known alternatives to Venice, places like Chioggia, where you’ve got the canals but far fewer visitors.

Visitor numbers: 4 million per year

Photo by Henrique Ferreira on Unsplash.

There you have it, the most visited cities in Europe! Do you agree with my take on each of these popular European destinations, or have I been too hasty in my judgements? Let me know in the comments below.