Chosen by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best
Switzerland, the capital of alpine tourism, is like one giant collection of postcards. Beyond the obvious stars of the show - the snowy Matterhorn towering over the charming, car-free town of Zermatt or the sparkling waters of Lake Geneva - Switzerland offers world-class hiking in the Engadine and Ticino, castles dating back to the Middle Ages, countless alpine lakes and delightfully quaint towns, like Lucarno and Lugano.
Photo courtesy of swiss-image.ch/Stephan Schacher
Secret sea caves, gushing geysers, ice fields, waterfalls, black sand beaches, cloudy blue hot springs and the Northern Lights ... these are just a few of Iceland’s plethora natural wonders that make it one of Europe’s (if not the world’s) prettiest countries. The tiny population are famed for their friendly, warm hospitality and pride in their Scandinavian heritage.
Photo courtesy of Dieter Meyrl/iStock
There isn’t much to say about France’s seductive beauty that hasn’t already been said. Towering Notre Dame and stained-glass-filled La Sainte-Chapelle, grand Versailles and the colorful canals of Strasbourg are enough to prove the architectural beauty of France, while the gastronomic scene is hard to match. Then there’s the landscape ... snow-capped alpine peaks, old oak forests, towering sand dunes and, of course, the sparkling waters of the French Riviera.
Photo courtesy of StevanZZ/iStock
The Emerald Isle, named so for its undulating green countryside, has a big reputation as a desirable destination, which it lives up to with a relaxed, friendly flourish. Some visitors find beauty in that perfect pint of Guinness poured at an unassuming cottage pub, others in the waves crashing into cliffs along the Atlantic coastline, and yet others in the crumbling castles dotting the landscape.
Photo courtesy of Mustang_79/iStock
Visiting Spain is like visiting multiple countries in one. Catalonian culture and the whimsical works of Antoni Gaudí lend beauty to Barcelona, while Basque Country in the north serves as a gateway to the beautiful Picos de Europa. A lovely contrast to the mountainous regions of Northern Spain are the sunny plains and cultural blends of Andalucía in the South. Those who find beauty on a beach will find no shortage in Spain, in destinations like Mallorca and the Canary Islands.
Photo courtesy of MasterLu/iStock
The rolling hills of the Cotswold, the haunting moors of York, dozens of literary spots and historic sites ... and that’s just in England. Add to that the enigmatic ruins of Wales, rolling green hills of the Scottish Highlands and the jaw-dropping Causeway Coast of Northern Ireland, and the United Kingdom’s pretty appeal is easy to see.
Photo courtesy of AndyRoland/iStock
Germany’s prettiness is one of Europe’s most diverse. The oft-photographed castles of Bavaria look straight out of a fairytale, while dense forests and lush river valleys dotted with half-timbered towns complete the storybook landscape. Germany’s big cultural powerhouses - Berlin, Munich and Hamburg to name only a few - offer a heady mix of beautiful historical sites and modern marvels from some of architecture’s greats, all complemented by regional culinary delights.
Photo courtesy of Natalia Klenova/Hemera
Beauty is everywhere you look in Austria, from the artistic masterpieces and gilded palaces of Vienna to the snowy mountains, meandering valleys and alpine lakes scattered throughout the countryside. Nature lovers find Austria’s beauty at its best in the Eastern Alps that dominate the landscape, creating a playground for outdoor recreation, while music lovers will find equal beauty in the cultural landscape that nourished the likes of Mozart and Strauss.
Photo courtesy of RudyBalasko/iStock
Italy’s natural, cultural and culinary beauty has been inspiring travelers and artists for centuries. Beyond the obvious beauty - flower-adorned Tuscan villas, magnificent cathedrals and timeless works of art - there’s a more subtle beauty to be found in the very fabric of Italian society: a dedication to slowing down, sitting back and enjoying life to the fullest.
Photo courtesy of jenifoto/iStock
Much underrated Portugal has all the trappings of a pretty European country: cobbled villages beneath the shadows of medieval castles, sun-kissed beaches, a delectable culinary tradition and plenty of history to explore. Whether swimming in the turquoise waters of the Algarve, sipping a glass of port at a Porto cafe or listening to the melancholy lament of a fadista in Lisbon, Portugal’s understated beauty becomes obvious.
Photo courtesy of herraez/iStock
Italy, Austria, Germany UK round out top 5
In our 10Best Reders' Choice contest for 'Best European Country,' voting was heaviest for one nominee in particular. Portugal has apparently stolen the hearts of our readers as it secured the lion's share of votes.
Portugal is less iconic than other well-known countries, but it offers a wealth of opportunities to travelers: charming villages, great food, fascinating regional music, cultural opportunities, a beautiful coastline and even world-class surfing.
Italy and Austria landed solid in second and third, while a mere 47 votes separated 4th place finisher Germany from Spain in 6th place. The (very large) United Kingdom, with no language barriers for Americans and a wealth of well-known landmarks, took 5th place.
The biggest surprise? Iceland, which trumped Greece, Norway, and several other more exotic countries, to land in the top 10.
The full list of winners in the 'Best European Country' contest category for 10Best Readers' Choice is as follows:
Congratulations to all the winners. Wondering where to take your next trip? This list makes a fabulous overseas bucket list.
All nominees were chosen by experts in the Travel Industry. Thus, the other 10 nominees also deserve some consideration. They were Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Turkey.
Vote for other categories