World citizens are now travelling more than ever. The latest data published by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) show that international tourist arrivals grew 6% in 2018, totalling 1.4 billion, which was forecasted to be reached only in 2020.
In Europe alone were registered 710 million international tourist arrivals or about half of the total number. Southern and Mediterranean Europe drove the growth; however, the Western and Central European countries remain not only the most visited in Europe but also the top tourism destinations in the world.
Following, find the top ten most visited countries in Europe and the reasons why these countries are a magnet for tourists.
1. France – 89.4 million visitors
The world’s most visited country, France, is not all about the Eifel Tower, museums and wine. For more than a decade now, the country has lured the highest number of visitors, more than any other European or world country. The reasons for that are not few. The country has such a variety of tourism attractions that a year would not be enough to see and experience everything that it has to offer.
France is well known for the numerous splendid and enormous palaces, castles and cathedrals all across the country. The Palace of Versailles, the Castle of Chambord and the Notre-Dame Cathedral are some of the most famous.
Medieval villages like the Pérouges, St-Émilion, St-Jean Pied de Port, coastal villages, snowy mountains, beautiful beaches and enormous outdoor markets have made every traveller place France on their must-see list. Over 89 million visitors alone visited the country in 2018, and the numbers are believed to be much higher in 2019. France seems to be the top world destination since 1995 when the country received over 60 million visitors.
Do you want to visit France?
> Check France visa and entry requirements
> Find and book a hotel in France
> France travel insurance
2. Spain – 82.7 million visitors
Mostly located on the Iberian Peninsula, Spain is the second most visited country in Europe. Around 82.7 million travellers stepped into Spain in 2018 alone, 1 million more than in the previous year.
Spain has 47 UNESCO world heritage sites, numerous beaches on the Atlantic and Mediterranean, and numerous festivals that bring together people from all across the world. Many have compared the coastal part of Spain with tropical islands.
The variety of foods, in particular the Tortilla Espanola, Pisto, Paella, Paella and other traditional foods have added the value of a trip to Spain.
Its football teams are among the most famous in the world. It is estimated that the Copa Del Rey championship attracts thousands of visitors yearly.
Do you want to visit Spain?
> Check Spain visa and entry requirements
> Find and book a hotel in Spain
> Get low-cost travel insurance for Spain
3. Italy – 62.1 million visitors
Home to some of the most famous buildings in the world, like the Colosseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy is the third most visited country in the old continent of Europe. A number of 52.4 million visitors entered the country in 2016, 58.3 million in 2017 and 62.1 million in 20218.
Home to numerous castles, palaces, cathedrals, vineyards and beaches, the country is also known for its influential art, architecture and culture. The Vatican Museums located in the heart of Rome are another attraction for many. Rome itself is the third most visited city in Europe, after Paris and London. Florence, Venice, Milan and Naples are among the most visited cities in Italy.
And even though Italian cuisine is spread worldwide, eating pasta and pizza in Italy, is a must-do for many.
Do you want to visit Italy?
> Check Italy visa and entry requirements
> Find and book a hotel in Italy
4. Turkey – 45.7 million visitors
Istanbul is probably the dream of every traveller. The meeting point of the occidental and oriental cultures, Istanbul was established in 660 BCE and was known as Constantinople before the Ottomans conquered the city.
No traveller to Turkey will skip Istanbul. The city has a unique mixture of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture, tasty middle eastern food, nice weather, and lots of friendly cats and dogs freely wandering across the city.
Turkey received 45.7 million in 2018, while in 2017 it counted a total of 37.6 million tourists. Travellers interested in history in particular visit the ancient Greek city of Ephesus, the Cappadocia rock valleys, the pure white travertine terraces of Pamukkale, and the ruins of the former Armenian capital Ani and much more.
A huge share of the total number of annual tourists travelling to Turkey goes there to spend their vacations in one of the numerous luxury hotels which you can find in most of the bigger cities.
5. Germany – 38.8 million visitors
One of the strongest economies in the world has a very strong tourism industry as well. A good share of the German budget comes from tourism. Visitors hardly travel across Europe without stopping in Germany. In 2018, Germany had 38.8 million tourists, while in 2017, 37.5 million visitors entered the country.
It shares borders with Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west. Travellers to any of these countries can easily access Germany by train or plane.
Germany has a lot to offer to curious travellers. The Cologne Cathedral, Reichstag building, Neuschwanstein Castle, Heidelberg Castle, Aachen Cathedral, Leipzig Zoological Garden are some of the buildings that attract the most visitors.
If you travel to Germany at the right time, you may experience events like the Oktoberfest, the Cologne Carnival, the Berlinale film festival, or Unity Day.
Do you want to visit Germany?
> Check Germany visa and entry requirements
> Get low-cost travel insurance for Germany
>15 Best things to do and see in Berlin
> Find and book a hotel in Germany
6. United Kingdom – 36.3 million visitors
The modern era Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland consists of four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The country has played a very important role throughout the history of Europe and the world.
Castles, palaces, churches and other buildings constructed in different periods of history stand still and attract millions of visitors annually. Among the most visited are Stonehenge, the Roman Baths and Georgian City of Bath, Canterbury Cathedral, the Cotswolds, Warwick Castle and Stirling Castle.
37.7 million travellers entered the country in 2017, 1.9 million more than the previous year and 600K less than in 2018. The number of tourists is in particular high during bank holidays and the summer months.
Do you want to visit the UK?
> Check UK visa and entry requirements
7. Austria – 30.8 million visitors
30.8 million travellers visited Austria in 2018. Whether you are passionate about art or nature, Austria can offer you both.
With its stunning castles most of which were created during the Habsburg reign, the Baroque castles and gardens, ruins and monuments dating back to the Middle Ages, a few days or even weeks will not be enough to sneak a peak of the famous Austrian buildings.
The Austrian Alps are well-known as a winter sports attraction. Innsbruck is a must-visit for all those passionate about skiing, or who want to get away from the busy city life.
Do you want to visit Austria?
> Check Austria visa and entry requirements
> Find and book a hotel in Germany
8. Greece – 30.1 million visitors
The cradle of western civilization, the Hellenic Republic of Greece hosts millions of visitors every year. It has been a tourist attraction since antiquity. 27.2 million people visited the country in 2017, after 24.8 million visitors in the previous year. In 2018 the number increased to 30.1 million tourists.
Among the most famous spots for visitors are the Acropolis, the monasteries of Meteora, the mystical Delphi ruins, the Temple of Hephaestus and many more. The capital of Athens, Thessaloniki, Corfu, Santorini and Crete are among the most visited cities and islands. There are more than 200 Greek islands that you can visit, each more beautiful than the other.
Food in Greece is a unique experience itself. It is a mixture of traditional Greek food influenced by Turkish and Italian cuisine. Greeks are especially known for their seafood and cheese.
Do you want to visit Greece?
> Check Greece visa and entry requirements
> Find and book a hotel in Greece
9. Russia – 24.5 million visitors
The biggest country in the world is the ninth most visited in the European continent. 24.5 million travellers visited Russia in 2018.
There is a lot to explore and see in Russia. The Saint Basil’s Cathedral looks as if it has gotten straight out of a fairytale. The Hermitage Museum and Kremlin also look fairytalish. Buildings from Imperial Russia such as the Bolshoi Theatre, the Kazan Cathedral and the Singer House are stunning as well.
There are a lot of natural wonders, such as Lake Baikal, Kizhi Island, Valley of Geysers, and Mount Elbrus. Russian ski resorts are in particular famous among Europeans.
10. Portugal – 22.8 million visitors
22.8 million people visited Portugal in 2018, mostly interested in seeing the capital Lisbona, the city of Porto, Odemira, Faro and the city of Sintra.
There is a lot to do in Portugal, from visiting old castles and palaces to surfing at the sea. The old village of Sortelha, the Pena Palace, the Castle of the Moors, the historic fishing town of Cascais and the waterfalls of the Azores are among the things you must see if you are travelling to Portugal.
Portugal has a coastline of 1,794 km and shares its borders only with Spain. It has stunning beaches, crowded ones and others hidden. It is also known for giving to the world-famous football players, who won the UEFA European Championship in 2016.
Do you want to visit Portugal?
> Check Portugal visa and entry requirements
> Find and book a hotel in Portugal
The Most Visited European Countries
Here is the list of the most visited European countries in 2018.
|Rank||Country||International tourist arrivals (2018)|
|6||United Kingdom||36.3 million|
Here is the list of the most visited European countries in 2017.
|Rank||Country||International tourist arrivals (2017)|
|4||United Kingdom||37.7 million|
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What is the most visited country in Europe? ›
The top five EU countries for visitors are France, the UK, Germany, Italy and Spain. France is the number one tourist destination in the world and the most popular tourist destination in the EU with 89.4 million tourists arriving in France last year.What are the top 10 most visited countries? ›
- UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. ~ 80 million visitors.
- CHINA. ~ 63 million visitors.
- ITALY. ~ 62 million visitors.
- TURKEY. ~ 46 million visitors.
- MEXICO. ~ 42 million visitors.
- GERMANY. ~ 39 million visitors.
- THAILAND. ~ 38 million visitors.
- UNITED KINGDOM. ~ 36 million visitors.
- United States - 79,300,000.
- China - 65,700,000.
- Italy - 64,500,000.
- Turkey - 51,200,000.
- Mexico - 45,000,000.
- Thailand - 39,800,000.
- Germany - 39,600,000.
- United Kingdom - 39,400,000.
Welcoming more than 89 million visitors per year, France is the most visited country in the world.Which European country is least visited? ›
Liechtenstein. The Principality of Liechtenstein is the leader in the list of the least visited countries in Europe. This small but insanely beautiful state is located in the Alps, between Austria and Switzerland. The lack of tourist excitement can be explained primarily because there is no airport on its territory.