Europe’s myriad cities, towns, and quaint countryside villages have long inspired people to venture forth and explore. Whether you’re wandering an Old World metropolitan capital or eager to get off the beaten path, there always something fresh and exciting to discover. For 2020, we’re taking a look across the continent to bring you some of the trendiest destinations. For good measure we’re covering a mix of big cities and smaller towns. There will be plenty of art museums, chic cafes, and boulevards bustling with fashion. From Berlin’s cutting edge design and entrepreneurial spirit to the artistic enclaves in Kotor, we’ve got you covered. Come along as we hunt for great travel destinations. These are the hippest European cities to visit in 2020.
Prior to German reunification in 1990, Berlin was a city divided. Cleaved in half by the Berlin Wall, the West was free to experiment with new ways of living while the East suffered under totalitarian oppression. When the wall came down young people flooded east, attracted by low rents and motivated by a desire to probe the newly reunited culture. In districts abutting the wall like Kreuzberg, an influx of people and money created space for a vibrant arts and culture scene. Though the city grew in ways unimaginable three decades ago, Berlin has managed to hold on to that energetic sense of possibility. Historical memories run deep and the city has responded with initiatives designed to tap into the dynamic currents flowing just beneath the surface. Start your tour at the famed Brandenburg Gate. Notice the small stone markers in the street indicating where the Berlin Wall used to stand. Make your way to the historic Reichstag and tour the Parliament Building. See graffiti left by Soviet soldiers when they took Berlin in May, 1945 to end the Second World War in Europe. Next visit the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and allow yourself to get lost as the monument’s undulating design evokes a world where nothing was stable. Spend the afternoon touring Museum Island before venturing to either Kreuzberg or Kurfürstendamm for some evening entertainment and a great meal. There’s a lot to do in Berlin so try to budget a few days in order to really get to know one of the hippest cities in Europe.
Poland’s ascension to the European Union in 2004 brought something of a renascence to this Eastern European nation. Gone were the days when students and trade unionists marched in Gdańsk. In cities around the country, new movements in art and literature sprung up, taking full advantage of Poland’s growing connections to the West. In few places was this more evident than in Wroclaw. Set a little over 350 kilometers from the capital Warsaw, Wroclaw has earned a reputation as one of the most visually stunning cities in all Poland. Start your tour in the Old Town and admire the beautiful Gothic old town hall. Today it contains the Museum of Bourgeois Art. Wander around Market Square and snap some pictures of the colorful architecture. Work your way to the River Oder and see the lovely riverside designs, pathways, and buildings there. Wroclaw’s canal-like appearance where the river splits between a series of islands as well as the moat surrounding much of the Old Town have resulted in people referring to the city as Poland’s Venice. Tour Cathedral Island (which isn’t actually an island) before making your way to the National Museum in Wroclaw. Spend your evening hours plying the Old Town streets. Stop by the many small galleries with their eclectic collections and enjoy a delicious meal before retiring for the night. With this much on offer, we’re sure you’ll agree Wroclaw is one of the hippest European cities to visit in 2020.
If you ask seasoned European travelers about their favorite memories, many would probably reflect on a time in the 1990s when Prague and Warsaw were newly free from the yolk of communism and bubbling with creative energy. The Baltic nations still retain much of that early post-Soviet charm, and it shows. Offering a fantastic combination of classic architecture, history, modern design, trendy shopping, and fashionable cafes, this is definitely one of those European destinations you don’t want to miss. Great as a romantic getaway or a solo backpacker’s adventure, there is much to fall in love with and admire in Riga. Budget yourself ample time to explore the city center. Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Old City Riga is a fascinating and beautiful place. Medieval architecture predominates and is interspersed with modern designs. See the iconic Three Brothers and visit Riga Cathedral with its Romanesque, early Gothic, and Baroque elements. The macabre-named House of the Black Heads is a Gothic landmark home to Latvia’s president. Visit the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia to learn about Soviet repression in the country and how this informs much of Latvian culture today. Architecture fans will want to make a point to stroll along Albert Street with its collection of beautiful facades. When night falls enjoy yourself as streets throughout Old Town come alive. Riga is an all-around lovely destination, certainly one of the hippest European cities to visit in 2020.
When it comes to travel in France, Paris gets all the love. If you tell someone you’re looking to get outside the City of Light, chances are they’ll recommend the Riviera or somewhere else along the Mediterranean Coast. Unless you’re a ski buff heading for a weekend in the Three Valleys, you might be tempted to ignore large swaths of this most European of nations. Were here to save you from such a mistake by recommending a beautiful town in France’s Grand Est region. Metz sports charming gardens and leafy promenades set along the Moselle and Seille Rivers. Stopping is easy on your way from Paris, Germany, or Luxembourg. Youthful fashionistas, innovative start-ups, and creative investors have for years staked their claims in Metz. Visit the Centre Pompidou-Metz, a branch of the iconic Parisian institution housing modern and contemporary artwork. See the magnificent stained glass in Metz’s Gothic Cathedral. By contrast, the simple stone design at the Basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains dates to around the 4th century CE. As one of the oldest churches in all of Europe, this magnificent structure is well-worth visiting. Spend a few hours wandering the streets in central Metz and pop your head into a café or two. The trendy designs and colorful characters inhabiting these spaces will give you plenty to write home about. Metz is definitely a place to be and one of Europe’s hippest cities to visit in 2020.
Montenegro is likely not a place that springs to mind when you think trendy European destinations; however, that’s exactly what makes K0tar so special. Tucked into a corner of the vaguely angelic looking Bay of Kotor, this historic port city is surrounded by fortifications and protected against approach by towering limestone cliffs. Today, the iconic old town is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and dates back to the Venetian Republic, which for centuries ruled much of the Dalmatian Coast. Kotar’s winding streets, bustling town squares, and Romanesque churches are a principle draw. Getting here is best accomplished overland via the Montenegrin capital Podgorica, crossing the border with Croatia via Dubrovnik, or taking a ferry from a Southern Italian port such as Bari and then transiting from Bar. Once you arrive in Kotar wander the old town. Visit the Maritime Museum with its collection that includes model ships, paintings, and furnishings. Climb the fabled Old Town Road up to Kotor Fortress where you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking photos of the town and Kotar Bay. Impressive switchbacks rise clear over the hill so you can easily hike to your heart’s content. Another popular outing is the trail leading to an old Austro-Hungarian fortress known as Vrmac. When night falls, enjoy the scenes across the bay as lights in Kotar flicker on. The warming glow adds to the beauty of the moment in this hip European city.
An imperial capital with ancient Roman fortifications? Yes, please! Vienna, the city of music, remains a quintessential European destination. With grandeur from a time when Mozart walked its streets, Vienna remains a vibrant metropolis where the intellectual fervor is matched by a creative dynamism. At once both supremely classic and relentlessly modern, Vienna is a truly global city. Once you’ve nailed down your accommodations, slip into the conversation at one of the city’s myriad coffee houses. Long a favored meeting place for intellectuals and radicals, Viennese coffee culture is officially recognized by UNESCO as part of the world’s intangible cultural heritage. Grab a booth at the famed Café Central, a place once favored by Trotsky and Freud. Tour Hofberg Palace, St. Stephen's Cathedral, and Belvedere Palace with its ornate manor gardens. Vienna’s museums are legion and too numerable to list in one go. Find something that appeals to your sensibilities be it the Museum of Natural History or perhaps art history at the Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien. The city of Mozart remains a place for innovative music. Quartets regularly perform in the various churches and cathedrals around the city while the Musikverein is home to the renowned Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. When the sun sets, you will find conversations carrying on in the city’s many restaurants and pubs. Art galleries display modern works alongside paintings from old masters. In this timeless city there is almost too much to enjoy. Give yourself a few days to explore one of the hippest European destinations for 2020.
The Hungarian capital Budapest is a fantastic destination. Castles, overlooks, and natural hot springs dominate. Having survived behind the Iron Curtain, the character here is markedly different from say Paris, Rome, or Vienna. Hungarians have long taken pride in their culture, especially its culinary traditions. National dishes such as goulash, chicken paprikash, and kolbasz are wonderfully delicious. Start along the River Danube at Buda Castle and explore the former residence of Hungarian kings. Visit the Hungarian National Gallery and the Budapest History Museum, both now housed at the castle. Walk to Matthias Church and then to Fisherman’s Bastion, a great place to snap photos of the Hungarian Parliament Building across the river. Parliament’s iconic architecture is easily one of the most recognizable sights in all Hungary. Once you’ve had your fill, venture across the river and tour Parliament. The nearby Museum of Ethnography has a wonderful collection of artifacts detailing life in Hungary and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Head east from the museum to Hero’s Square and explore the fairytale Vajdahunyad Castle. The Museum of Fine Arts is a great stop if you like Renaissance and 19th-century European paintings. Finally, enjoy a bit of relaxation at one of Budapest’s famous thermal spas. The bathhouses around the city offer a range of services and occasionally host raucous parties catering to the city’s youth. Budapest is one of the hippest cities in Europe and a place where you can enjoy yourself without spending an arm and a leg.
Scandinavia is a curious places to outsiders. A penchant for flat-pack furniture and modernist design overcomes a Northern European stodginess. Nestled on a series of small islands where Lake Malar drains into the Baltic Sea, Stockholm is often referred to as the “Venice of the North.” Start with a tour of the Nobel Museum in the central part of old Stockholm known as Gamla Stan. This is the most historic part of the city and where 17th- and 18th-century architecture dominates. Colorful facades are plentiful along the narrow streets. Visit the magnificent Church of St. Nicholas before touring Stockholm Palace. Those interested in royal history and palaces will want to check out Drottningholm Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sprawling palace complex roughly 11 kilometers from downtown. Adjacent central Stockholm is Södermalm, the city’s most populated neighborhood. This is where you will find a great many artists’ enclaves as well as plenty of dining options. Visit Skinnarvik Park before having a walk along the island’s central thoroughfare, Hornsgatan. Look for tickets to a performing arts show perhaps at Tribunalen or visit the Stockholm City Museum. Nighttime, however, is when you can really enjoy yourself in Södermalm. You might elect to spend time in other parts of the city and then venture over for a meal and the nightlife. With Swedes always looking to push the boundaries of modern design, there is a lot of creative energy in Stockholm. This is just one reason we think it ranks among the hippest European cities to visit in 2020.
As you think about where to go this the come year, we wholeheartedly endorse a European vacation. With countless options from which to choose, there is literally something for everyone. Take yourself to that major capital city or enjoy the slower place of life in a place like Kotar. Maybe it’s palaces and culture for you, in which case we suggest Vienna or Stockholm. When it comes to travel, there’s no one way to enjoy yourself. Utilize this guide here as a building block and create your own bespoke travel adventure. 2020 is shaping up to be a pivotal year in many places, particularly in Europe. Don’t let another year pass you by before you finally manage to book that European dream vacation. Come see what all the fuss is about when you explore the hippest European cities to visit in 2020.