Our pick of Europe’s 11 most culturally rich cities

by | 24 Jul 2022

European cities are visited en masse by millions every year as key European cultural destinations, some for their creative pedigree, others as fascinating pages in the chapters of history. We’ve compiled a list of 11 of Europe’s most culturally rich cities top alongside the best way to see them.



Known as the greatest seaport in Medieval Europe, the continent’s main commercial link to Asia, and a historical focal point of global trading, the floating city is as pragmatic as it is beautiful. The romantic, serene waterways create a mystique and allure that have inspired poets, writers, and artists throughout the years.

Many devotees of culture and art make the pilgrimage to Venezia’s watery shores. However, they then are easily engulfed in the crowds of sightseers, becoming lost at tourism-sea.

Our Best of Italy tour will pair you with a Local Specialist, letting you lean on the savvy of an expert guide while you glide your way through one of Europe’s most culturally rich cities.


Historically a cultural hub of Europe and no doubt one of Europe’s most culturally rich cities, Paris has long been frequented by countless artists, philosophers, and of course, eloping lovers. The city was the locus for a Revolution that irreversibly shaped future democracies. It is home to timeless works of art carefully guarded by the Louvre, and important thinkers over the years such as Sartre, De Beauvoir, Voltaire and Rosseau.

Take a trip along Paris’s romantic Haussmann streets and see the city’s most iconic sights, as well as France’s gorgeous regional beauty on the Normandy, Brittany & the Loire Valley tour.


As Europe left behind the dark times of the Middle Ages, a movement swept through the continent revolutionizing art and culture. The Renaissance can be traced back to one city, Florence, where thinkers of unimaginable talent and panache pioneered the way into a new future.

In Florence, enter Leonardo da Vinci’s workshop and home where the Renaissance Man painted, invented, and crafted his best works. Look through the Uffizi for oeuvres by the Italian Old Masters, paintings by Michelangelo, Donatello, and more, proving Florence to be one of the finest European art destinations. See the Ponte Vecchio and the streets where the ancient Florentine tradition of leathermaking was born. All this and more, on our Easy Pace Italy tour, where you’ll explore what we think is one of Europe’s most culturally rich cities.


You can’t talk about Europe’s most culturally rich cities, without mentioning London. Long serving as home to the Royal Family and as the seat of a global colonial empire, London started life as a humble Roman settlement and has come to be an economic powerhouse and one of the most visited cities in the world. The colonies established throughout England’s imperial history have in turn transformed the capital into a city of incredible diversity; it is a melting pot of cultures, languages, countries, and creeds.

Come to London to see its most iconic sights but be aware: it’s easy to be swallowed up by the intensity of the sprawling metropolis. Our tours, such as Gems of Britain, are led by expert Local Specialists, helping you navigate the city with grace and dexterity.


The sunny capital of Catalonia is a city teetering on the balance between tradition and modernity. It is a delicacy for the eyes, with incredible architecture spanning the traditional Gothic streets of the Barri Gòtic, to the bold and brash Modernisme found in the city’s more contemporary neighborhoods.

Moorish influence from Barcelona’s rich history can also be seen on the domes and spires throughout the city. Art installations, colorful mosaics, and gallery exhibitions add to the visual feast. The city is also titillating for the ears, with constant music festivals on display all year-round, including the month-long jazz festival.

Experience the best of the seaside city on our Spanish Heritage tour, where you’ll also see the rest of Spain’s most iconic cities such as Valenica and Seville.


One of the world’s oldest and one of Europe’s most culturally rich cities, much of the foundations of modern society can be traced back to this ex city-state. Athens is a sprawling hub of arts, philosophy, and learning. It is known as the ‘cradle of Western civilization’, and the birthplace of democracy. Philosophically significant is an understatement; the city houses both Plato’s Academy and Aristotle’s Lyceum. A base for The World Center of Archeological Research, Athens is home to countless sites of historical relevance, Roman and Byzantine monuments, and museums housing ancient Greek antiquities.

It would be apt to visit Athens in isolation, much like the city-state of bygone years. However, the capital is best experienced in context. See the Treasures of Greece & The Islands tour to paint a full picture of Greece’s ancient landscape and culture, spotting the mainland’s key landmarks, such as Mount Olympus, plus the iconic isles dotted around the azure Mediterranean.


From a small 10th Century fishing village to becoming the ‘gateway to Scandinavia’ and a cultural and economic center for the Nordic region, Copenhagen has come a long way. Forward-thinking, this maritime city serves as a fulcrum for progressive and liberal economic policy, leading the world in socialized healthcare, social security, and high living and working standards. There lies a mystique in both the city and country’s reputation as having the ‘happiest’ and most ‘satisfied’ people in the world.

Join the many others who pilgrimage to Denmark to try to uncover the secrets to a happy life on the Country Roads of Scandinavia tour.


The port capital of Portugal enjoys a rich history steeped in story and mythology. Though known to have been founded by Phoenician and Greek traders, Lisbon is said to be a part of Odysseus’s 10-year journey back from Troy, in which he founded the city. While now a bustling metropolis and frontier of the modern Portuguese economy, the city still retains much of its pre-industrial charm. Fishing boats reel in at dawn to take feisty fishermen over to auction their day’s catch, while vendors roam the streets to peddle what’s left.

Upon exploring the 7-hilled city and experiencing the romantic allure of what makes it one of Europe’s most culturally rich cities, perhaps while wistfully looking out from a Lisboan balcony, one may come face-to-face with ‘saudade’. This is defined as a brooding yearning, combined with a mystical melancholy. Portuguese poets and musicians vibrate about saudade in literature and the folk songs of Fado, and it has come to define Lisbon’s intangible charm.

See the seagirt city of art and poetry on the Country Roads of Portugal tour.


At the seat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Holy Roman Empire, Vienna is integral to Europe’s cultural significance, validated by the timeless names that’ve inhabited its Baroque streets. Sigmund Freud, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert. Indeed, the illustrious title of the ‘city of music’ comes as no surprise.

Vienna enjoys a unique luxury now unattainable by cities elsewhere: an unspoiled, unmuddied lifestyle that has stayed the same since over a century ago. Lebenskunst, the Viennese ‘art of living’ has survived, meaning one can still enjoy the same music in the same rebuilt concert halls, the same local wines can be enjoyed in the same taverns, the same whipped cream and coffee in countless cafes.

Enjoy a window into one of Europe’s most culturally rich cities on The Bohemian tour.

10. ROME

Ignoring the food for a moment, (if one can), Rome’s historical significance cannot be understated if you’re counting down Europe’s most culturally rich cities. Nicknamed the Caput Mundi, ‘capital of the world’, the Eternal City houses innumerable ancient artifacts and architectural marvels. Displaying a Catholic serenity and peace, one can only display humility and muted awe in the presence of its grandiose structures, fountains, frescos, and monuments.

Rome, much like the rest of Italy, shows its artistic and cultural legacy not only in its grand structures but also in the smallest of details. On some innocuous alley, one may find a subtle object – a balcony here, a fountain there, yet they stand in such understated beauty that they’d be the main attraction if found anywhere else in the world. But here, in the Eternal City, they are just another small part of the background that makes up this opulent stage.

Take our Road to Rome tour to experience Caput Mundi’s timeless beauty, with the added benefit of a guided tour giving you premium access to the best sites, skipping the long tourist queues.


As the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia and a key city for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Prague boasts architectural monuments that span over millennia and movements – from Romanesque chapels to Gothic cathedrals to Baroque, Cubist, Rococo, Classical and Neoclassical. Marvels such as the astrological clock and dancing house prove Prague is one of Europe’s most culturally rich cities.

While many settlements build on rivers, few are as iconic and loved as the Vltava, a picturesque behemoth covered by dozens of rowboats and steamers. The river is the soul of the city, its embankments hosting dozens of markets, summer exhibitions and parties. It’s adorned by Baroque statues and over thirty bridges, their arched regularity painting a portrait reminiscent of Florence.

See Prague’s immutable beauty, plus more of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s most significant cities, on the Easy Pace Budapest, Vienna & Prague tour.

I'm Jay – born in Italy, raised in South London. Having French sisters and Hungarian ancestors, I've always been fascinated with the world and its cultures, and I carry this curiosity into my writing for Insightful. My favourite destinations I've traveled to so far have been Italy, Peru, France and Brazil.