Based on the vote of more than one million travelers from 172 countries, the European Best Destinations (EBD) organization has released its list of the 20 trendiest places — selected from 500-plus — to be awarded the title of “Best European Destinations 2024.”
With a record number of votes, Marbella, Spain, lands at the top of the list, the first time that a Spanish destination takes first place in the ranking. “It is the destination most voted for by American and English travelers for a stay in Europe in 2024,” EBD explains. “This is a sunny, five-star, natural, sporty, gastronomic destination with everything to please the most demanding travelers.”
Marbella is followed by Monaco, Malta, Geneva and Batumi (Georgia) in the first five places.
Selected for their quality of life, sustainable development, year-round cultural offer, growth in popularity on social networks and their international recognition (smart tourism, European Union Green Capital, UNESCO, Blue Flags…) the 20 most-voted sites will be promoted throughout the year and are authorized to display the coveted title of “European Best Destination 2024.”
Working since 2009 to promote sustainable tourism, and in partnership with some 500 tourism offices in Europe and the European Commission’s EDEN Network, (Awarded Sustainable Destinations), EBD also organizes other tourism competitions in Europe, including Best European Christmas Markets, Best European Beaches, Most Romantic destinations and Best European Ski Resorts.
“Exclusive destinations are back on track,” said Maximilien Lejeune, CEO of European Best Destinations. “Also, we notice a new trend towards off-the-beaten-path, smaller destinations such as Ponza, Porto-Vecchio, Cap Ferret, Sirmione and the Faroe Islands for simple convivial holidays.
With award-winning destinations like Monaco, Marbella, Malta, Geneva, Madeira, Florence, Riga and Batumi, we clearly see a desire for exclusive travel in destinations recognised for the quality of their offers and services.”
EBD’s rankings show that “travelers want to enjoy culinary, cultural, sensory and sporting experiences and prefer destinations combining beach, outdoor activity, nightlife and discovery in complete freedom, without plans or constraints.”
1. Marbella, Spain
This year’s winner is a destination that drew 149,192 votes, a record since the creation of this competition, placing Marbella not only as the trendiest of European destinations but also as one of the best Golf Destinations in Europe as well as one of the best for gourmets and shopping addicts.
“Wherever golfers choose to play, they will enjoy top-class golf courses, many of them with panoramic views of mountains and the Mediterranean,” writes EBD.
“Take a gastronomic tour of this food-loving Andalusian city that can cater to any craving – and delivers views and vibes to boot, with three Michelin-starred restaurants, plus hundreds of smaller eateries dishing up everything from Mediterranean and Thai to paella and succulent local tapas, great food is a major part of Marbella’s allure.”
With more than 300 guaranteed days of sunshine per year, al fresco dining by the beach or beneath the stars is practically guaranteed.
This year’s #2 destination, Monaco, was shortlisted as a Sustainable Destination for its commitment to sustainable tourism and protection of the ocean.
“Monaco has been focusing on green development for many years and the destination continues to expand and honor its commitment to nature,” says EBD. “It is seen as a perfect destination for a green getaway combining wellness, gastronomy, shopping, beach, water activities and outdoor sports.”
It’s the favorite destination for couples ages 25-45 and the destination on the Riviera which has garnered the most votes since the creation of this competition, ahead of Cannes and Nice.
A unique destination, Monaco reflects the perfect marriage between glamour, culture and relaxaation. Renowned for its security, it also surprises with the richness of its history.
“Gastronomic delights, cultural and sporting events, exceptional nightlife, shopping experiences, pampering spas…the most eclectic dreams come true on these two square kilometres place,” EBD explains.
The organization recommends Monaco for a romantic stay, a family trip or a getaway with friends because it has a “diversity of the hotel offerings to meet all expectations.”
With its Oceanographic Museum, Prince’s Palace and breathtaking panoramas — where the green of the gardens blends with the blue of the Mediterranean — Monaco-Ville, at the heart of the Principality, offers pleasant strolls among the fishing boats and prestigious yachts.
“Head to Place d’Armes: Riviera colors and flavors are guaranteed. Take time and taste local specialties such as barbagiuàn, socca or pissaladière,” EBD advises. “Discover the legendary Place du Casino where the Café de Paris, an institution of the Principality, and the iconic Hôtel de Paris Monte-Carlo are located.
A few steps away, the Larvotto seaside complex reveals its beach, its shaded promenade, its shops and its restaurants to relax in summer and winter with your feet in the sand.”
Sunny Malta, appears as a perfect place for romantic holidays, family holidays or holidays with friends. It’s also a nature destination awarded the sustainable-tourism label several times by the European Commission and has taken the number one position for travelers ages 25-45 on the prowl for an active holiday in Europe.
Malta, Gozo and Comino offer stretches of countryside and stunning coastlines. “Wherever you go, the scenery and architecture provide a spectacular backdrop with the striking honey-colored stone of buildings facing the deepest of Mediterranean blues,” EBD says.
With year-round favorable climate and an array of underwater sites, Malta is consistently voted one of the best diving destinations in the World.
Malta’s culture is a unique blend of influences from various civilizations that have inhabited the islands over thousands of years, from the prehistoric megalithic people, to the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Knights of St. John.
The country is also European Best LGBTQ+ destination and has been #1 on the Rainbow Europe Map for seven consecutive years.
The other two islands — Gozo and Comino — can be a pleasant change of scene or alternative destinations in themselves.
4. Geneva, Switzerland
Geneva is the most-voted Swiss destination since the creation of this competition. It’s also the destination with the Best Quality of Life in this European ranking.
Nestled in the heart of Europe, surrounded by awe-inspiring nature, the city hugs the tip of the largest alpine lake in Western Europe, with the majestic Alps and Jura mountains in the backdrop. Rolling vineyards, dotted with picturesque villages, envelop the city.
Switzerland’s second-largest city, Geneva is a mix of historical charm and vibrant culture. It proudly hosts the European Headquarters of the United Nations and Les Eaux-Vives public beach with the iconic Jet d’Eau and lively ambiance.
Beyond its diplomatic significance, Geneva is celebrated for its world-renowned watchmaking and a delectable chocolate tradition. Discovering Geneva is a journey through the country’s largest Old Town, dining in top-notch restaurants and practicing outdoor activities. Recent additions to its tourist attractions include the family-friendly Science Getaway and the indulgent Choco Pass, a self-guided chocolate tour.
5. Batumi, Georgia
Batumi is becoming one of the best-awarded destinations in Europe. It ranks among the Leading Destinations in the World by the prestigious World Travel Awards and has now been voted by worldwide travelers as one of Europe’s five Best Destinations to visit.
Safe, green, friendly, perfect for a romantic, wellness or gastronomic getaway, Batumi is the trendiest destination 2024 for the best sensory experiences in Europe at the best price.
This year, it received more votes than London from US travelers in the EBD competition and is one of the safest places on the continent — safer than Paris, Milan, London, Berlin and most of the European capitals. (Batumi has twice less criminality that a safe destination like Vienna.)
Here, history rubs shoulders with cosmopolitan modernity and untouched nature in the beautiful Adjara Region. For lazy days on the beach, exciting nightlife, romantic stays, adventures with friends and family, wellness and culinary riches, Batumi is described as “a real sensory journey.”
The Adjara Region offers a perfect stay off the beaten track, with affordable prices and well-preserved authenticity. Thanks to its year-round subtropical and mild climate, Batumi features a remarkably green environment. It houses a 19th-century Botanical Garden rich in rare species and the city is surrounded by three National Parks recently recognized by UNESCO as World’s Natural Heritage sites.
The architecture of the city was designed by European architects in the 19th century when Batumi became a port city called “Porto Franco” (free port). For that reason the city is home to diverse cultures and religions, where Christian Orthodox, Catholic and Armenian churches, mosques and synagogues have lived in harmony throughout the centuries.
Batumi has a remarkable mix of beautiful scenery with sea and high mountains, ancient cultural monuments, monasteries, medieval bridges, lakes and authentic villages to travel back in time, alongside cutting-edge architecture.
The European-style squares and streets, world-brand hotels and old city cafes have turned it into a cultural hub hosting major European events, international artists, art exhibitions and global sports championships. In addition to its legendary hospitality, Batumi also has excellent wines and a mostly undiscovered cuisine.
6. Riga, Latvia
Riga is the perfect destination for a city break on a human scale, with events throughout the year, shopping, gastronomy, nature, art nouveau architecture. A travellers’ favourite destination for the Baltics and the favourite for young travellers aged 18-25 who want to discover Europe with the best quality-price ratio.
The most cosmopolitan of the Baltic capitals, Riga, capital of Latvia, is a modern city with a historical heart. Riga’s Old historical town center has UNESCO World Heritage status with its winding paths and well-hidden streets surrounded by Romanticism, Gothic and Baroque testimonials alongside the views of the modern city.
Rich building facades can be admired at the Art Nouveau district as a third of the houses in the city center are genuine pearls of that style. Architecture, theaters, art galleries, outdoor events, a luxurious Opera House, various music halls, independent cinemas, and a contemporary art scene are among the cultural offerings.
Cozy cafes or fancy restaurants on every corner in the city center offer food menus that are a combinations of local and world cuisine emphasizing seasonal and local products. Riga is home to the best coffee roasters in the Baltics, and of a number of home-grown quality breweries.
At the age of 822, Riga is far from feeling old. The city’s youthful spirit is well enjoyed at any of the street food festivals and other creative and urban events held throughout the year.
Only thirty minutes from the city center is the beach, surrounded by forests and breathtaking landscapes.
7. Madeira, Portugal
In addition to its unique scenery and verdant mountains, the Madeira archipelago offers a mild climate all year round, a warm welcome, safety and security.
Madeira, like Marbella, Monaco and Geneva, counts among the exclusive destinations attracting discerning travellers for decades. Winston Churchill made Madeira his Best Destination in Europe, as have today’s digital nomads, surfers, nature lovers, foodies, instagrammers, wine lovers and outdoor sports lovers.
“To really get to know Madeira, climb to the top of a mountain and enjoy breathtaking views or follow the trails and paths in the Laurissilva Forest along more than 1,400 kilometers of Levadas (irrigation channels or aqueducts) in a unique encounter with the island’s soul,” EBD advises. “Experience the special ambiance of Funchal’s streets and purchase some of the famous Madeira embroidery, wine or wickerwork.”
For energetic visitors, there’s scuba-diving, surfing, windsurfing or jet-skiing, whereas most romantic visitors may prefer a sailboat trip along the coast to enjoy the sunset.
To make the best of the visit, EBD recommends spending time on the island of Porto Santo, 40 kilometers from Madeira, 15 minutes by plane or 2 1/2 hours by ferry. Known as the “golden island,” Porto Santo offers nine kilometers of fine sandy beaches.
8. Florence, Italy
Then there are the facades of the awe-inspiring basilicas and cathedrals that form the city’s unmistakable skyline, the lavish palaces telling stories of various periods of the city’s history, from the birthplace of the Renaissance to the capital of Italy and all the way through to the first half of the twentieth century when Florence became a hub for the avant-garde.
“Florence’s museums and the magnificent works housed in them are a trip into the history of a city and its treasures,” EBD writes, “a cultural imaginary that has contributed to the creation of Western civilization as we know it, and laid the foundations for the aesthetic, educational, scientific, culinary, political and artistic principles that surround us today.”
Florence is a romantic and beautiful city for gourmets that can be discovered on foot, with no other plans than to wander around its narrow streets…and marvel. It’s surrounded by nature and Tuscan villages with their renown wineries.
9. London, United Kingdom
This year, the crown for best offbeat city break goes to London, the capital of abundance.
With a multitude of atmospheres and neighborhoods like Carnaby for shopping, Notting Hill for romantic strolls, Portobello for the flea market, Camden for the punk and libertarian spirit, the West End Theatre District and its legendary musicals, the gay and sparkling district of Soho, Chinatown, emblematic places like Piccadilly Circus, Big Ben, the London Eye, Tower Bridge, the Shard and great parks such as Kew Gardens, Greenwich and Hyde Park — one becomes breathless at the infinite reasons to visit.
10. Reykjavik, Iceland
The capital of Iceland, land of the Vikings, coastal Reykjavik is the country’s largest city, renowned for the exceptional environment surrounding it, resplendent with volcanoes, hills and the geothermal Blue Lagoon spa near the village of Grindavik.
Reykjavik is home to the National and Saga museums tracing Iceland’s Viking history and the striking Hallgrimskirkja church and rotating Perlan glass dome that offers sweeping views of the sea and nearby hills.
With some 130,000 inhabitants, Reykjavik is an exemplary, human-sized European capital with a rich cultural life, vibrant nightlife, large sporting scene and exceptional music — according to EBD, “a city to restart, recharge, refuel.”
The city also fields a large range of local and international cuisine, with national specialties — notably, seafood and lamb or fermented shark) — and more than 40 vegan and vegetarian restaurants.
In August, Reykjavik proudly celebrates Gay Pride, raising the LGTBQ+ colors since 1999.
“Reykjavik, the perfect destination for open-minded travelers who love wide open spaces and non-standardized destinations,” EBD aptly enthuses.
11. Lège-Cap-Ferret, Nouvelle Aquitaine, France
Lège-Cap-Ferret is reminiscent of ‘authentic’ holidays. Simplicity, sharing, open-air markets, impromptu concerts, bike rides, an aperitif on the beach…this is France’s southwestern legendary conviviality.
“Take walks or bike rides, join the nearby café, visit the lighthouse and admire the Pilat dune (the largest in Europe), taste oysters in the neighbouring oyster village or take a short sea trip with an oyster farmer,” EBD recommends.
Here, everything has the taste of summer holidays, from the fresh fish to mouth-watering ice cream and the white wine accompanying the seafood.
There are no shopping centers, just a small boulevard lined with fashion boutiques with pretty linen dresses and shirts to take home as souvenirs of an unforgettable French holiday.
The Arcachon Bay is a jewel once prized by the nobility for the quality of its pure air that combines sea and pine. The Arcachon basin offers an incredible architectural heritage and beautiful villas in different styles.
Cap-Ferret is a destination that the French would prefer to keep to themselves, not yet so well known to international travelers, with a lifestyle combining simplicity, good food, comfort and conviviality.
12. Siena, Italy
The heart of Tuscany, probably one of the most beautiful regions of Italy, provides an alternative to go “off piste” and travel through time.
An area rich in medieval villages, breathtaking landscapes, historic buildings, nature hikes, wine tasting, olive oil and many more delicious local products.
Surrounded by nature, Siena is one of the most beautiful medieval towns in Italy, its historic centre declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995.
“One could come to Siena for the beauty of the “Piazza del Campo” alone when it hosts spectacular horse races in July and August,” EBD notes. “Climb to the top of the “Torre del Mangia” one of the symbols of Siena and admire the Piazza and the whole city from above. If you are an art enthusiast, be sure to visit the Palazzo Pubblico which houses masterpieces of Siena’s art golden age.”
Not far from Siena is Buonconvento, declared the most beautiful village in Italy, and Monticiano with its natural reserves and Rapolano Terme with the best spas in Italy.
Siena is more than a trip. Rather, it’s an experience, and a romantic destination made for lovers, art, theater, nature, food aficionados and families.
13. Ponza Island, Italy
This small Italian island with an area of only seven square kilometers and just a few thousand inhabitants is located off the coast of Rome and Naples and was, until recently, a well- kept secret by the richest Italian families.
With its festive atmosphere, simplicity, contrasting colors, designer boutiques, coves and beaches, Ponza is usually compared with Saint Tropez in the 1960s and 70s.
“The best way to enjoy the island is to rent a boat or take a water taxi and discover the most beautiful coves, beaches, caves and natural pools such as Cala Feola to the West,” EBD reports. “There are superb panoramas from the top of the cliffs of Ponza such as the Maria Rosa Cliffs.”
Ponza is beautiful any time of the year but September until mid-October is undoubtedly best.
14. Porto-Vecchio, Corsica, France
A destination of rare beauty and also far from the madding crowds, Porto-Vecchio, a port town on the French island of Corsica, is a superb choice. With a 16th century Genoese citadel as the backdrop to the old town and with views over the yacht-filled marina, shops, bars and restaurants, it also has some of the most beautiful beaches in France, including Santa Giulia and its crystal-clear waters and fine white sand of Palombaggia and its umbrella pines to rest in the shade under their sweet scent.
Porto-Vecchio combines the charm of an old Croatian or Montenegrin town with the beauty of a Tahitian lagoon a few kilometers away.
Porto-Vecchio is the promise of an unforgettable gastronomic, cultural and visual experience. “Too much lazing at the beach? EBD asks. “Meet the wine growers, the women and men who cultivate the land to give you wines of character. Immerse yourself in the heart of the maquis and be transported by the smell of Mediterranean plants. If the beautiful heritage of Porto-Vecchio thrills you, take your time to explore its Genoese citadels, Romanesque chapels or prehistoric villages.”
15. Champagne Wine Region, France
For many years, the Champagne Wine Region has been a popular destination for travelers hunting for unique experiences combining gastronomy, outdoor activities, heritage and, in this case, bubbly.
The landscapes of the Champagne vineyards are worth visiting most of the year, their colors ranging from light green in spring to fiery red in autumn. Here, nature rolls as far as the eye can see and reveals the secrets of the wine of kings and king of wines.
From Epernay, one of the region’s capitals, to Dormans, located along the meandering Marne River, this unique land produces some 200 million bottles of champagne, nestled in 100 kilometers of tunnels dug in the chalk bellow.
“During your stay, you can board a balloon to enjoy a glass of champagne and a 360-degree view of the vineyards,” EBD writes. “Other villages in the region like Hautvillers, the cradle of champagne and known worldwide for the famous Dom Pérignon, and Reims, the other capital of Champagne, houses producers such as Demoiselle, Taittinger and Veuve-Cliquot and also a spectacular cathedral.”
And it’s all just 1 1/2 hours from Paris.
16. Faroe Islands
An autonomous territory of the Kingdom of Denmark, the Faroe Islands are an archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean, formerly the private turf of a few travelers passionate about ornithology or hiking.
Today, the Faroes attract visitors searching for authenticity, well-preserved nature, spectacular landscapes, dramatic steep cliffs populated by thousands of sea birds and natural fountains flowing into the sea.
The archipelago is very well connected by road, tunnel, ferry and bridge.
Given its location, the weather is extreme. Best to visit in spring or summer. It has earned its slogan: “Discover the islands, discover yourself.”
Discovering the 18 Faroe islands means uncovering a destination that has experienced isolation for centuries and has therefore preserved its traditions, authenticity and natural habitat.
17. Sirmione, Lombardy, Italy
Sirmione is the icing on the cake of Lombardy, a region in Northern Italy.
An unusual destination, Sirmione on Lake Garda is a place that many would prefer to keep secret.
A 12th century medieval castle, partly submerged in the blue waters of Lake Garda, is one of the city’s landmarks. Only a one-hour drive or a two-hour train ride from Milan-Bergamo airport, Sirmione is one of the most beautiful secret destinations in Italy.
Stroll through the castle’s dungeons and the tower and enjoy magnificent views of the city or lose yourself in its medieval streets and discover the best of Lombardy. There are beautiful small beaches such as “Spiaggia Lido delle Bionde” for swimming in the lake.
18. Piran, Slovenia
Piran is known as the most beautiful little town in Europe and undoubtedly one of the most photogenic. Piran is located in Istria, a Slovenian region renowned for its vineyards and gastronomy close to Italian as well as for the beauty of its crystal-clear waters and nature.
Along with Portoroz and Koper, Piran is a primo Slovenian seaside resort. Called the ‘City of Love’, Piran seduces with its narrow town streets, the beauty of its facades and the picturesque sights of the Mediterranean.
Discover the Venetian architecture, the ancient city walls, the Monastery of St. Francis and participate in the harvest of the famous Piran fleur de sel. Dive into the underwater world and discover that the stars are also visible in broad daylight at the wonderful Pira aquarium.
Take an e-bike and explore the Slovenian Coast on a tour that combines local cuisine and beautiful beaches or try homemade premium extra virgin olive oil in the small village of Marezige.
19. Newquay, Cornwall
Newquay is one of the best hidden and beautiful seaside resorts in the U.K.
Newquay is the surfing capital of England, offering relaxation and conviviality around a shared meal or an impromptu concert, as well as a destination for a romantic getaway in Cornwall, with its many spa hotels and à la carte restaurants,
The countryside offer cozy lodges featuring hot tubs and log burners and there are many surfing schools to learn the sport or rent equipment. Newquay also offers golf, cycling and go-karts among its attractions. If traveling with family, don’t miss a visit to the “Trenance Valley”with a free play park, the Newquay Zoo, a miniature railway, a swimming pool and a trampoline park.
20. Thassos, North Aegean Sea, Greece
There’s a little corner of lost paradise, though, that Greeks prefer to keep for themselves with a natural lagoon, Marble Beach, that offers a stunning contrast with its turquoise blue sea, enlivened by a warm welcome from the locals.
“Have a few lazy days at the beach,” EBD recommends, “then climb the mountains to meet the inhabitants of Panagia or Kazavati. They will welcome you with open arms.”
Thassos is an adventure in an earthly paradise.