If you look for the most gorgeous areas in big cities in Europe, start with their historic centers, also known as old towns.
Last updated: January 19, 2022
Charming Old Towns and Historic Centers in Favorite Cities in Europe
The first thing I personally look for in the largest cities in Europe are the charming historic centers. This habit of mine came by accident. The historic centers in Europe were in no way my first priority. I wanted to see real life rather than the old buildings and museums.
Yes, old and artificial – this is how I pictured the historic centers in Europe just a few years ago. My perspectives completely changed after visiting the Old Town of Vienna, by far one of the most incredible destinations in Europe. The adorable capital of Austria was just the beginning of the long journey through the old towns of Europe.
Fast forward a couple of years and the medieval districts and old towns of major European cities are my favorite places to see. And there is a good reason for it. Without further ado, here are the most stunning historic centers in Europe.
9 OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL HISTORIC CENTERS IN EUROPE
Old Town Vienna
Undoubtedly, the Old Town of Vienna is one of the most visited places in the city. A treasury of some of the best architectural masterpieces, this historic center slowly unveils Austrian history and traditions. Exploring these incredible jewels offers both the authentic pleasure and the thrill of being able to see them while taking a leisurely stroll.
From busy Graben Boulevard to quieter University Quarter, the Old Town of Vienna impresses with style and genuine splendor. Along with the impeccable architecture, horse-drawn carriages take you back in time. They remind you of the old days when Austrian aristocrats used them to get around.
No wonder, the spectacular Baroque castles and gardens didn’t escape attention of higher authorities. In 2001, the historic center of Vienna was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Old Town Prague
The Old Town of Prague is rightfully one of the most beautiful historic centers in Europe. Start your journey through this charming old center at the picturesque Charles Bridge and see how the medieval town gets better and better with every step you make.
The main attractions of the Old Town of Prague include the Old Town Square and the Astronomic Clock on the Old Town Hall. A few other beautiful churches, hotels, and restaurants nestle around the main square of Old Prague.
Once you leave the center, the streets get less crowded. At some point, they even let you enjoy a sensation of being lost. Yet there is not need to worry. In a minute or two, you’ll get back to the hustle and bustle of one of the most incredible historic centers in Europe.
Old Town Zurich
If I have to choose one of my all-time favorite historic centers in Europe, Zurich will take the lead. This medieval city impresses the moment you lay your eyes on abundant bridges across the Limmat River. City’s narrow streets with cute shops and restaurants entice with their traditional vibe.
Gothic spires of famous churches tower over the other buildings, all of them about the same height. Swiss flags, integral parts of almost every structure in the Old Town of Zurich, sway in the wind. It’s a sight to behold. I love everything about the Old Town of Zurich. My favorite part, though, is Lindenhof that opens the most beautiful views of the city.
Old Town Riga
Riga turned out to be not exactly the way I had pictured it. But its Old Town impressed me beyond any imagination. You can explore it within a few hours. But what an incredible experience it is! From cobblestone streets to pastel color houses, you feel like you just entered a stunning toy city. Numerous churches, cathedrals, and charming squares, such as Riga Town Hall Square, complete the vibrant picture.
Center of Rome
The center of Rome is the finest of all historic centers in Europe. Just like all roads used to lead to Rome, some of the major European historic treasures are found here. From the Colosseum to Vatican, Roman Forum, Pantheon, and Spanish Steps, the center of Rome has everything to inspire and impress.
Old Town Munich
Stunning like it can only be in Germany, the Old Town of Munich is the epitome of incredible Gothic architectural style. The main attraction here is undoubtedly Marienplatz with its signature New Town Hall and Glockenspiel.
The New Town Hall is the newest addition to the historic center of Munich. Nevertheless, it never fails to gather huge crowds of visitors wishing to see figurines shows in the Glockenspiel.
Historic Center of Florence
Italy seems not to have shortage of the places with the most beautiful historic centers in Europe. Next to Rome, Florence doesn’t cease to impress with its historic treasures that got even on the radar of UNESCO. In fact, in 1982 the historic center of Florence was named a World Heritage Site.
Honestly, you couldn’t expect less than that from the home of such architectural monuments as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Basilica of Santa Croce, and the Church of Santa Maria Novella.
Old Town Bratislava
The Old Town of Bratislava is rough, but beautiful at the same time. You don’t see smoothness and perfection of the historic centers of many other cities in Europe. Instead you meet face-to-face with deteriorating old wall surface and faded paint – direct indicators of the long life of Old Bratislava.
On the other hand, these flaws feel so natural and enjoyable as you take a walk down the streets of this historic center. You can’t get enough of its medieval charm and architecture presented by the Old Town Hall, St. Martin Cathedral, and Bratislava Castle.
The capital of Ukraine is full of history no matter where you go. While some parts of the city tell you about the latest events in Ukrainian history, Old Kiev takes you back to its earliest days. Enter through the Golden Gates, the main entrance to the old city, to get access to some of the ancient churches and monasteries of Kiev.