When you’re planning a city break, you want to ensure you’ll have plenty to see and do whilst you’re away. One of the best ways to get to know a new city is by immersing yourself in the local culture, but with so many unique cultural hotspots throughout Europe, it can be tricky knowing where to begin.
We looked at 31 major cities throughout Europe, analysing data from TripAdvisor to see which offer visitors the widest array of cultural attractions. We then compared this to the size of each city, to get an attractions per km2 figure – for those who want to squeeze as much into their trip as possible!
From breath-taking architecture and fascinating ancient ruins to world-renowned galleries and museums, there’s something for everyone. Here are the true European capitals of culture.
Home to the Louvre, Notre-Dame and the Eiffel Tower, Paris topped the list as the cultural capital of Europe, with an incredible 20.5 cultural attractions per km2. With so many cultural icons being found in Paris, it’s no surprise to see it top our list. In fact, Paris came out on top for 5 out of the 7 different categories we looked at – entertainment, monuments and statues, parks and nature, points of interest and religious sites.
Paris also had the second highest number of attractions overall, with 2,157, only being beaten by Moscow, with 2,511. However, the smaller size of Paris means it has more attractions per km2, helping it claim the top spot. This also pushed London down the rankings, as despite having the third highest number of attractions on offer, with 2,108, its larger size meant it only has 1.3 attractions per km2,.
Brussels comes in second place overall, with 11.5 cultural attractions per km2. While Brussels is a major centre for international politics, playing home to a number of European Union institutions, its cultural credentials stretch much further than this. As well as coming second overall, Brussels takes the number one spot as the best city for museums and galleries, with 4.2 per km2, and 138 in total.
Athens takes the bronze medal, with 8.4 cultural attractions per km2. One of the world’s oldest cities, Athens also took the top spot for the best city for historical fans, with 38 different historical sites to choose from, or 1 per km2. The city is also home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Acropolis of Athens and the medieval Daphni Monastery.
Fourth place goes to Lisbon, the city built on seven hills, home to picturesque views, centuries old architecture and delicious custard tarts! The city has 5.4 cultural attractions per km2, including the spectacular Castelo de São Jorge, with the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sintra just a short journey away.
Dublin comes in as the fifth most cultural city in Europe, with 5.3 cultural attractions per km2. The Irish capital is known for its proud literary heritage, which includes the likes of Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and more.
Explore the full list of Europe's cultural capitals below.