Bergen, Innsbruck, Dubrovnik, Chester also in Top Five
The winners in the 'Prettiest European City' contest category for 10Best Readers' Choice are as follows:
While on the smaller side for a city, Bruges packs a heavy punch when it comes to visual appeal. As one of the world's best preserved medieval cities, Bruges is brimming with cobbled lanes, ancient canals, baroque and Gothic buildings and monuments. In its UNESCO-listed city center, it's commonplace to see swans drifting along canals past flower-adorned brick houses – a sight that has won over many a visitor. Photo courtesy of Steve Jurvetson
The beauty of Venice is both timeless and world renowned. This former European trade port – built entirely on the water – appears almost dreamlike with its pastel buildings, stone palaces and gondola-filled canals. It's no wonder Lord Byron called Venice "a fairy city of the heart." Photo courtesy of Ingram Publishing
The natural beauty of the Greek Islands reaches its crescendo on the island of Santorini, thanks in part to the quintessentially Greek blue and white color palatte of the buildings and churches that cascade down the outside of a volcanic caldera toward the azure waters of the Aegean Sea. If the beauty of the city itself weren't enough, the beaches here are postcard-perfect. Photo courtesy of Klearchos Kapoutsis
Straddling the Danube River in Hungary, Budapest is dotted with grand palaces, baroque monuments and Gothic cathedrals, a few Art Nouveau and neoclassical structures thrown in for good measure. Visitors come from all over Europe and the world to soak in the city's 123 thermal springs, many housed within exquisite works of architectural art. Photo courtesy of Dennis Jarvis
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague, Europe's "Golden City" gives Paris a run for its money when it comes to beauty and romance. Centuries-old stone bridges spanning the slow Vltava River, cobbled lanes and busy public squares, all in the shadows of Romanesque, Gothic and Art Nouveau spires make Prague one of Europe's most popular capitals. Photo courtesy of Maria Arkhipova
In Chester, Roman walls surround a charming collection of Tudor and Victorian buildings and a delightful shopping district filled with half-timbered shops reminiscent of a Grimm tale. There's not a modern structure in sight, making Chester one of the most popular destinations for visitors to Cheshire. Photo courtesy of jimd2007
Dubrovnik, one of Europe's most beautiful and majestic walled cities, has skyrocketed to the top of the list of stylish European destinations. The city's 14th century ramparts hug the Mediterranean coast, and within the walls is a sea of reddish orange-tiled roofs, bleached by more than 250 days of sunshine annually. Photo courtesy of Dubrovnik Tourist Board
After hosting two Winter Olympics, Innsbruck has become one of the largest ski resorts in the Alps. Summer or winter, the city enjoys the natural backdrop of the snow-capped Nordkette Alps, made especially beautiful with the medieval Altstadt, or Old Town, in the foreground. Photo courtesy of James Cridland
Surrounded by the breathtaking hills and fjords of Norway, the brightly colored timber houses of Bergen surround the boat-filled Vågen Harbour at its center. The second largest city in the country is attractive to winter sports enthusiasts, who can day-trip to some of the world's best slopes. But visitors typically spend their days discovering this beautiful and historic Norwegian city. Photo courtesy of Sónia Arrepia Photography - Visitnorway.com
Riga, the capital of Latvia and the 2014 European Capital of Culture, is only beginning to get the attention it deserves. The "Gem of the Baltics" combines a pulsating big city vibe with a UNESCO-listed Old Town and one of Europe's richest cultural scenes. Architecture buffs will recognize Riga as home to Europe's largest collection of Art Nouveau buildings. Photo courtesy of Alexandre Tolstykh
Voting was heavy in this contest; congrats to all our winners!
It became apparent early on that a trip to Europe makes a very lasting and positive impression upon a traveler. Therefore we'd like to suggest this list of winners be used as a Bucket List for future travel.
As Editor in Chief of USA TODAY, Ms. Stoddart sets editorial policy and oversees a staff of reporters, editors and freelance columnists who produce travel content for the nation's largest newspaper and its travel website and mobile products. She has traveled the world many times over during her 35-year career in travel journalism.
A longtime travel journalist, Libby McMillan is Senior Editor for 10Best and a travel editor for USA TODAY. She has been to Europe nearly a dozen times and always travels with a camera in hand. Thus, she was particularly captivated by this travel award category. Libby says she'd be hard-pressed to choose the 10 best cities based on their beauty, so is glad the voting is up to the public.
Ben Abramson is USA TODAY's online travel editor, and has traveled all over Europe in search of memorable meals, great art and architecture, vibrant cities and tranquil hill towns. Based on passport stamps, France and Italy are his favorite destinations outside of North America.