With such a crush of languages, cultures and opinions about what it means to be on time in such a small space, Europe has always held a certain charm to travelers, and it’s hard to choose where to start. The top ten visited European countries, based on international arrivals according to the World Bank, show that visitors are still keen on the romance of Mediterranean countries while giving eastern outliers a chance to show off their goods.
[Also see our travel articles “The Ten Most Visited Countries in the World” and “The Ten Most Visited Cities in the World“]
10. Poland with 13,350,000 foreign visitors each year
Chopin’s homeland is certainly a diverse one. With beaches to the north, mountains to the south and pristine countryside in between, the food and towns in each region are quite unrelated. Walkable Krakow is a tourist favorite with its pierogies, friendly denizens and several UNESCO world heritage sites. Outdoorsy types will be especially enamored with Poland, as there are tons of hiking trails in the summer and great skiing in the winter.
9. Greece with 16,427,000 foreign visitors each year
[Also see our travel articles on Greece]
The unmatched Greek hospitality is something that needs to be experienced, as do the sunsets, beaches and food. Probably the best adjective to describe Greece would be “breathtaking”: a nighttime view of Athens from the Acropolis, the white-washed houses of Santorini and the 1,000 miles of coastline are more than enough to brush away any lingering cynicism. The home of the Olympics has nothing to prove yet it still does, over and over again.
8. Ukraine with 21,415,000 foreign visitors each year
Ukraine is still on the periphery of must-go destinations, but one thing may change that: it’s cheap. The ability to stay on budget allows visitors to sample the local vodka and beer as well as the carb- and meat-heavy cuisine to their hearts’ content. The capital, Kiev, has some truly inspiring churches which stand in stark contrast to the Soviet concrete blocks that were constructed after the city crumbled in World War II. Ukraine also offers the chance for a truly unique day trip to Chernobyl and the adjacent town of Pripyat, which was abandoned overnight and retains an uneasy, spooky feel.
7. Austria with 23,012,000 foreign visitors each year
[Also see our travel articles on Austria]
Many may have been introduced to Austria via The Sound of Music, but those pastoral scenes are just the tip of Austria’s charms. This tiny country is a mecca for skiers most of the year, but those who are less athletically inclined can still enjoy the scenic views while tucking into rich desserts on cloudless afternoons. Salzburg’s favorite son Mozart still comes back to life at the city’s yearly international music festival, and visitors can also browse through the country’s famous exports at the Zotter Chocolate Factory and the Swarovski Crystal Worlds theme park, which features exhibitions of the company’s crystal creations.
6. Russia with 24,932,000 foreign visitors each year
[Also see our travel articles on Russia]
Playing word association with Russia may not sound so inviting: cold, vast and mysterious are some of the first that come to mind. But vast just means more places to visit. For those who have the time, the Trans-Siberian Railway is the best way to experience the wide open spaces and cities. Russia also offers a ton of micro-climates. Strip down in the 2014 Winter Olympics host city of subtropical Sochi or travel by reindeer in the world’s coldest city, Yakutsk. In between, Russia’s signature onion-shaped domes adorn beautiful churches, and it seems like almost every area is a must-see due to its World War II history, wild scenery or importance to Russia’s industries.