There’s something worth waiting in line for in every corner of the world. In Bruges, Belgium, it’s the rum cake. In Bath, it’s the six colors of the Bath salts.
After years of drifting from city to city, it seems that Europe has finally settled on some qualities of unrivaled beauty: from the courtyards of Venice to the souks of Marrakech to the cobblestone streets of the streets of St. Petersburg, Russia. The New York Times likes to describe travel as a voyage into the sensual world, and we’ll agree.
Bournemouth, England: The roots of medieval living lie just visible in this coastal town, where churches and chapels take up much of the historic quarter. A labyrinth of narrow alleys and fruit and vegetable stalls share a lively village center with townhouses and impressive country houses. Museums include the captivating Victorian Gothic Great Hall at St. Mary Magdalene’s Church.
Bavaria, Germany: A brilliant blue, lush green and mineral-rich earth create this region’s most striking and compelling beauty. The Loreley Botanical Gardens, a complex of masterpieces, also sits within the center of its town, the sombre St. Pauli Cathedral glimmers from afar. The Alps, lakes and high forests of the Saalbach Valley rival any landscape in Europe.
Berlin, Germany: This complex of medieval townhouses is steeped in history and visual arts, providing a fantastical backdrop to the city’s modern and dynamic new skyline. Also known as the Third City of the East, there are still stark reminders of Communism, and in UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as Goethe’s Books of the Holy Scriptures and the Palace of the Prussian Chancellery.
Marrakech, Morocco: This bygone city, where Mustafa Kemal Ataturk deposed the Mughal dynasty after nearly 200 years of reign, is known for its drug culture, sex shops and romance — the scent of flowers and fragrant lime where 1,000 years ago tots, men and women of all ages sat together to eat dinner in one of the city’s grand canteens. The blues and greens of the Atlas Mountains cradle exquisite mountain landscapes, while the cool clean water of the Oued Messara meets the heat of a few West African plains, creating two of the world’s most beautiful river valleys.
Venice, Italy: Some will tell you that the Venetian harbor and lagoon make Venice one of the world’s most sublime waterfalls. Others will tell you that the glittering Renaissance city — dense and raucous with history, art and architecture — is also one of the most romantic cities on earth. From the Baroque churches of St. Mark’s Square to the canal-side piazzas of Piazza San Marco, there’s enough for visitors to discover.
For more examples of Europe’s most beautiful cities, visit the rankings we created using American Express Travel’s proprietary STAR (Science, Economies, Tourism, Sports, Places) Study, available here.