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  • Although it is the world's second smallest continent, Europe welcomes more than half

  • of all the tourists worldwide.

  • In fact, 7 of the 10 most visited countries in the world are European nations.

  • It's easy to see why; a well-preserved cultural heritage, rich history, safety and efficient

  • infrastructure makes visiting Europe a breeze.

  • Here's a look at the best places to visit in Europe:

  • Number 25.

  • Vienna.

  • As the former seat of the Hapsburg Empire, Vienna is awash with impressive imperial buildings

  • and palaces, which so comprehensively convey the wealth and power of its former monarchs.

  • Now the capital of Austria, the city is a delight to get lost in.

  • Nicknamed 'the City of Music', the names of its famous residents roll off the tongue,

  • with Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert among those who once graced its streets.

  • Number 24.

  • Stonehenge.

  • You have to marvel at the determination of prehistoric man when you look at Stonehenge.

  • Construction started about 3000 BC on what was originally burial grounds.

  • Huge monoliths, weighing 25 tons, were dragged 150 miles to the site a few hundred years

  • later.

  • It's not known exactly how many humungous rocks were moved to a field near Amesbury

  • but there are 13 standing today.

  • It's also not known why Stonehenge was built, but many believe this great English landmark

  • is associated with early astrology.

  • Number 23.

  • Matterhorn.

  • Egypt may have its pyramids, but Italy and Switzerland have a nature-made pyramid of

  • their own: the Matterhorn.

  • At 14,692 feet high, this famous mountain is one of the highest in Europe.

  • The mountain has four faces, each equally rugged.

  • The legendary mountain has been popular with climbers since the first ascent in 1865; during

  • the summer 150 people a day try to climb it.

  • Couch potatoes may be just as happy to stay below and gaze in awe at the summit playing

  • hide and seek with the clouds.

  • Number 22.

  • Plitvice Lakes.

  • The Plitvice Lakes are so pretty, officials turned them into a national park.

  • Located in central Croatia, Plitvice Lakes consists of 16 lakes that attract more than

  • a million visitors a year.

  • The lakes are surrounded by lush forests and connected by waterfalls cascading down from

  • one lake to another.

  • The lakes are divided into two sections, lower and upper, because of the difference in elevation.

  • The best way to see the lakes is walking; on the route you might even see some wildlife.

  • Number 21.

  • Budapest.

  • Budapest was already an established city when the Hungarians took over in the ninth century.

  • Today, Budapest is the country's capital and largest city.

  • In between these two events, Budapest was ruled by the Mongols and Ottomans, among others.

  • Considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Budapest is home to the Museum

  • of Fine Arts with its collection of more than 100,000 works.

  • Be sure to visit the centrally located Old Town with its many museums, churches, palaces

  • and Parliament building.

  • Number 20.

  • Lisbon.

  • The Portuguese capital of Lisbon lies on the Tagus River along the Atlantic coast.

  • It is this location that encouraged explorers to sail far and wide around the world in the

  • 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.

  • One of the things you'll want to see is Belem Tower, a 16th century fortress on the

  • Tagus' north bank.

  • If you're looking for good views of old Lisbon, head to Saint George Castle that was

  • built on a hilltop by the Moors.

  • Number 19.

  • Gullfoss

  • You probably don't know too too many people who've been to Iceland.

  • But it may be worth a trip there to visit the spectacular Gullfoss waterfalls.

  • Located in southern Iceland, Gullfoss is one of Iceland's top tourist attractions.

  • At times it almost appears glacier-like, appropriate, perhaps, since it is fed by a glacier.

  • The waterfalls begins just after the Ölfusá River makes a perpendicular turn and then

  • cascades down a three-step staircase into a canyon that is 115 feet deep.

  • Number 18.

  • Athens

  • Athens, a city that's been inhabited since the fifth century BC, gave the world the concept

  • of democracy and is the birthplace of Western civilization.

  • Many of the city's major landmarks can be found in the old town, particularly around

  • the Acropolis.

  • The list includes the temple of Zeus; the Theatre of Dionysus where Sophocles works

  • were performed and the Parthenon, which sits atop the Acropolis.

  • Number 17.

  • Bay of Kotor

  • When you're hungry for breathtaking scenery, feast your eyes on Kotor Bay in southwestern

  • Montenegro.

  • This bay off the Adriatic is just downright picturesque: hemmed in by mountains, with

  • quaint villages sandwiched between the cliffs and the gorgeous blue water.

  • Several well-preserved medieval towns ring the bay.

  • People make pilgrimages here, not only to take in the scenery but also to visit the

  • many Orthodox and Christian churches spread among the villages.

  • Number 16.

  • Moscow

  • For nearly 900 years, Moscow has been the capital of Russia.

  • As such, this old city has plenty to offer visitors.

  • Let's start with the 15th century Red Square since many of the city's key attractions

  • surround it.

  • A top landmark is the Kremlin, a former fortress that houses museums and the president of the

  • Russian federation.

  • Lenin's Tomb sits in the middle of the square, while the iconic onion-domed St. Basil's

  • Cathedral, now a museum, is on one side.

  • Number 15.

  • Venice

  • Venice is for romantics who love gliding through the Grand Canal with a gondolier singing Italian

  • love songs.

  • This is, after all, the city that sent Marco Polo off on his journey to China.

  • Start your exploration of Venice at San Marco Square, the city's most famous square.

  • Here you'll find the Doge's Palace, the seat of Venetian government, and St. Mark's

  • Basilica, the main church in Venice with stunning views from the tower.

  • Venice also is famous for its bridges across the canals.

  • Number 14.

  • Monte Carlo

  • If you're into glitz and glamour, look no further than Monte Carlo, the major city in

  • the tiny principality of Monaco.

  • Monaco has always been known for these qualities which reached new heights when its prince

  • made Grace Kelly his princess.

  • Sitting on the shores of the Mediterranean, Monte Carlo is known for fast car races and

  • its elite casino.

  • Take a walk along the harbor to see yachts that belong to the rich and famous.

  • Number 13.

  • Alhambra

  • The Alhambra is one of the great wonders of Spain.

  • It's a gorgeous palace-fortress complex that can be found in Granada in southern Spain's

  • Andalusia province.

  • This imposing complex started out as a small fortress in the late ninth century, though

  • it was built on the ruins of a former Roman fortress.

  • Taken over by Christian rulers, it is the site where Columbus got the go-ahead to discover

  • the New World.

  • The blending of architectural styles over the centuries is stunning.

  • You'll find great art and grand gardens throughout.

  • Number 12.

  • Florence

  • If it weren't for Florence, the Renaissance might not have happened.

  • Florence is generally credited with bringing Europe out of the dark ages with great artists

  • like Michelangelo.

  • You can see their works at the Uffizi gallery, or the Academia that displays the original

  • David.

  • Eat a gelato while strolling the Ponte Vecchio that bridges the Arno River.

  • Ogle the over-the-top riches of the Medici family at the Pitti Palace.

  • Marvel at the early engineering that created the great Duomo.

  • This is Florence at its best.

  • Number 11.

  • London.

  • English history buffs will have a field day in London.

  • This city on the Thames is chock full of palaces, from Buckingham Palace to Hampton Court Palace

  • . More a prison than a palace, the Tower of London is home to the crowns jewels.

  • And from Knightsbridgedon't forget to visit the magnificent food halls at Harrods

  • to Carnaby Street, the shopping is awesome.

  • You can get around London quickly and efficiently by riding the famous Tube.

  • Number 10.

  • Neuschwanstein Castle.

  • Fairy tale castleis a phrase that aptly describes Neuschwanstein Castle in the Bavarian

  • Alps.

  • This 19th century Romanesque Revival castles looks like it just stepped out of a fairy

  • tale; some say Neuschwanstein provided the inspiration for the castle in Disney's Sleeping

  • Beauty.

  • The castle was built as a retreat for King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who viewed it as a romanticization

  • of the Middle Ages The castle was built of brick, then covered in rock, including the

  • white limestone that is visible from afar.

  • Number 9.

  • Amsterdam.

  • Amsterdam is a pleasant city marked with meandering canals lined with tall, narrow row houses.

  • It is the city where Anne Frank kept her famous diary, so visiting the house where she wrote

  • is a must.

  • ThisVenice of the Northalso is a city of great art, beginning with the Rijksmuseum,

  • home to great European masterpieces; Rembrandt's house and the more modern van Gogh museum.

  • Take a break from sightseeing to tour and sample Holland's beer at the Heineken Brewery.

  • Number 8.

  • Prague.

  • Prague, with a long history of war and destruction, is considered one of the best places to visit

  • in Europe.

  • Despite devastation caused by World War II, Prague has a very nice Old Town that is worth

  • more than a few hours of your time.

  • Prague has many pedestrian zones, which making walking a delight, as you wander by Prague

  • Castle, through the Jewish Quarter and over the Charles Bridge.

  • Wenceslas Square, situated in the New Town, hums with a vibrant nightlife and entertainment

  • air.

  • Number 7.

  • Istanbul.

  • Istanbul may be on the outer fringes of Europe but well worth a visit when you're traveling

  • abroad.

  • Turkey's biggest city is a fascinating place, filled with rich history, colorful markets

  • and mosques.

  • Top attractions include the Bosporus that separates Europe and Asia; the ecumenical

  • Hagia Sophia that's been a Greek Orthodox Christian basilica, then an imperial mosque

  • and now a museum, and the 15th century Topkapi Palace, also a museum today.

  • Get in a little shopping at the Grand Bazaar that's been in operation since 1461.

  • Number 6.

  • Geirangerfjord.

  • When the summer heat of Europe gets you down, head to Norway with its pretty cool scenery.

  • Geirangerfjord is a 9.3-mile long fjord with crystal blue waters fed by picturesque cascading

  • waterfalls.

  • Take a sightseeing trip on a car ferry through the fjord, passing villages on the shores.

  • Look out for the Seven Sisters and Suitor waterfalls so named because legend says he's

  • trying to court the sisters.

  • Also look for Bridal Veilwhen the light is right, it looks like a thin veil covering

  • the rocks.

  • Number 5.

  • Barcelona.

  • Founded by the Romans, Barcelona today is a bustling city on the Mediterranean Sea.

  • As the capital of Catalonia, it is a powerhouse in the region.

  • It is perhaps best known for the unusual buildings designed by the architect Antoni Gaudi.

  • These landmark structures include La Sagrada Familia, a church that's been under construction

  • since 1892.

  • You could build your entire visit around his buildings, but then you'd miss out on other

  • Barcelona delights, such as La Rambla, a popular pedestrian street in the central part of the

  • city.

  • Number 4.

  • Dubrovnik.

  • As European cities go, Dubrovnik isn't very big, but don't let its size deter you.

  • This little jewel, with less than 43,000 people, is one of the most visited cities on the Mediterranean.

  • Dubrovnik transports visitors back to a time when the fortified city was a major maritime

  • power commanding the third-largest navy in the Mediterranean.

  • As you wander the streets, you'll likely come across sculptures of St. Viaho, the city's

  • patron saint whose life is celebrated every February.

  • Number 3.

  • Santorini.

  • When it's time to sit back and relax, take yourself to to Santorini, an island in the

  • Aegean.

  • Top travel magazines consider this a prime destination; once there, you can't help

  • but agree.

  • The island has picture-postcard villages, an active volcano and stunning sunsets.

  • Be sure to visit Fira, a village perched atop a cliff.

  • You'll also want to sample wines, such as the dessert wine Vincanto as well as the produce

  • that is made sweeter and tastier because of the volcanic ash soil it grows in.

  • Number 2.

  • Paris

  • Songs laud Paris in the springtime, but any time of year is a good time to visit this

  • riveting city on the River Seine.

  • It's a city loaded to the brim with history, culture, great food and high fashion.

  • The iconic Eiffel Tower is one landmark you won't want to miss.

  • The Louvre houses one of the greatest art collections in the world.

  • Its great churches include Sacred Heart and Notre Dame.

  • When it comes to opulence, there's Versailles with its famed Hall of Mirrors.

  • Number 1.

  • Rome

  • The ancient Romans established outposts as far away as Great Britain.

  • They didn't ignore their home city, however, when it came to building great monuments.

  • One must-see landmark is the Colosseum, an arena that could hold up to 80,000 people

  • for gladiator contests.

  • One of the biggest draws is a tiny country inside the city: The Vatican City, with its

  • impressive St. Peter's Basilica with art provided by Michelangelo.

  • Maybe you'll get a glimpse of the pope at his Wednesday audiences.

Although it is the world's second smallest continent, Europe welcomes more than half