What makes a city particularly suited to ‘youth travel‘? Often nothing at all – a beautiful cathedral, fantastic cuisine or a sandy beach can be enjoyed whatever your age. Many articles like this one are simply ‘best cities in Europe’ lists, with a nod to ‘young people would like this’. But cities your parents would like are not the same as those that appeal to your child making their first visit to Europe.
Virtually every destination on this list is cheap and well-connected, with a mixture of culture and the kinds of activities young people are interested in: a vibrant social scene, an accessible food and drink culture and enough activities to keep you busy for a few days.
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Athanasios Gioumpasis/Getty Images Address Berlin, Germany
The youth capital of Europe. Fantastic nightclubs, a liberal policy on drinking alcohol in public (it’s totally allowed) and so much green space. And it’s a very cheap city to spend time in.
Could any other city have topped this list?
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EyesWideOpen/Getty Images Address Brussels, Belgium
Chocolate and beer, chocolate and beer, chocolate and beer. Learn what’s wrong with Bud Light and Hershey’s before it’s too late.
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Paulo Amorim/Getty Images Address Amsterdam, Netherlands
The land of sex and drugs: done the European way. Buy cannabis from an actual menu and peek at the legally regulated red-light district. Nowhere are you safer doing the things you probably shouldn’t.
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Xurxo Lobato/Getty Images Address Salamanca, Spain
One of the oldest university cities in Europe and a popular destination for European Erasmus and American Study Abroad exchange students, this is a vibrant place to learn Spanish. Also close to Madrid, the Spanish capital.
Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Alessandra Benedetti/Getty Images Address Budapest, Hungary
Budapest is famous for its ruin pubs (bars that have been set up in dilapidated old buildings) and the Sziget music festival, a week of music and performances on an island in the Danube. Budapest also has one of the best craft beer scenes in Europe.
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Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
Sean Gallup/Getty Images Address 381 01 Český Krumlov, Czechia
A once-abandoned town that got cleaned up in time for the party buses that now tour Eastern Europe. Enjoy water sports on the river and cheap Czech pilsners, set against the beautiful UNESCO-protected architecture of the old town.
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James Farley/Getty Images Address Reykjavík, Iceland
The capital of Iceland actually goes against the criteria I used at the start of this article – it is expensive and in the middle of nowhere (though Icelandic budget airline WOW air allows for great stopovers on the way from New York and Boston to Europe).
The home of Icelandic superstars Sigur Ros and Björk and the setting for a lot of HBO’s Game of Thrones, is anywhere hipper than Reykjavik?
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Pauline Price/Getty Images Address Lisbon, Portugal
The cheapest capital city in Western Europe had to appear on this list. Lisbon has a strong influence from its Brazilian expat community, which means you won’t get a better – or cheaper – caipirinha anywhere in Europe.
Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Lutz Bongarts//Getty Images Address 11380 Tarifa, Cádiz, Spain
The most southerly point in Spain, Tarifa is great for water sports, whale watching and for crossing the narrow Strait of Gibraltar to visit Morocco.
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Luis Davilla/Getty Images Address Dubrovnik, Croatia
Another city on the Eastern Europe party circuit, Dubrovnik is well connected to the Croatian coastline and to the historic Bosnian cities of Sarajevo and Mostar. Also a filming location for many scenes in Game of Thrones.