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Most Scenic Country in Europe

My travel blog isn't getting any updates these days, since I'm not traveling. But I am currently working on a post on the ten most scenic states in the USA.

This led me to think about the most scenic spots in Europe. I haven't been to all the countries in Europe yet, so I'm not qualified to rank order them, but of the ones I've been to, two countries are standouts: Norway and Slovenia. And of course, any of the alpine countries--France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy--are strong contenders.

I'm curious what countries people think are the most scenic in Europe. If you wanted to go to a single country and be wowed, which country would it be? One of these? Or do you have other favorites?

Posted by
11759 posts

For natural beauty I know there are places with single view or even multiple views of greater beauty; but I love the variety that Montenegro provides. It is about a three hour drive from the beaches and fortified towns of the Adriatic Coast to the rivers and canyons and lakes of the Dinaric Alps. For a built environment I love Budapest. Anthony Bourdain once said Budapest was the definition of Architectural Pornography.

Oh, and where the Dinaric Alps extend south into Albania. Absolutely freeking stunning.

Posted by
3807 posts

Interesting question. For a person who’s lived in landlocked places a long time, a vast expanse of water, whether an ocean or a great lake, is pretty stunning. Maybe that’s a variety element. Tropical locales, with seemingly exotic palm trees and other lush vegetation, warm weather, and fresh seafood make for a real change of pace, and the views are treasures. Never mind bugs and humidity, but the scenery is nothing like at home.

Mountains, perhaps highlighted with snow in the crags and couloirs, are different for people used to expansive ocean beachside views or flatlands. Actually, for someone with a spectacular mountain view out of my living room window, mountains are still amazingly scenic. For someone walled in a crowded big city, the vast cornfields of Iowa, or rolling hills of French vineyards could be the embodiment of Scenic. Variety in terrain seems to be a plus, or expansiveness of an ocean or sand dune, and bonus points for spectacular sunsets or sunrises.

With all that, and this might not be the most scenic of all time, but the Cote Granit Rose, with the pink colored fantastical rock formations along the northern coast of Brittany in France, was a wonderful surprise a couple of years ago, and if it’s not the most scenic, it sure ranks among the best.

Posted by
255 posts

Tough to answer as I have not been to all the places I want to get to yet either....but I'd go with Scotland. Lots of "wow" moments with natural beauty, with weather that seems to accentuate the mood and scene. The mountains, glens, coastline and splendid little towns and bigger cities have all been a joy to explore.

Posted by
6061 posts

For scenery Switzerland. Breathtaking! But as far as food, culture, meh.

Posted by
314 posts

I think the standout for me is France, as I can travel around that country and get a different cultural vibe and cuisine and scenery in every new locale. The Alsace is so different from Brittany and the SW region closer to Spain seems a world away from the Alps. The Loire Valley seems a different country from the Côte d'Azure. All of it gorgeous....and so varied.

Posted by
7900 posts

Judging based solely on scenery...for me it would be Switzerland, even as I live in the edge of the Rockies.

For a single country and to be wowed by history, culture, architecture, scenery, etc - I'd say France, followed closely by Great Britain and Italy.

What are your choices for 10 most scenic states?

Posted by
6164 posts

As whole countries Ireland, Scotland, Sicily (ok it's not a country, so I guess Italy) and Switzerland would make my list. But I also think there are areas of just about any country that are extremely scenic - Brittany (France), the lake district (England), Tuscany (Italy), the Danube valley (Austria), The Dolomites (Italy), and on and on.

Posted by
693 posts

If you are wondering, the most scenic of the US States is Alaska. If you want a scenic place in Europe, it is where France, Italy and Switzerland meet- Mont Dolent. :)

Posted by
31140 posts

That's a tough question to answer! Every country that I've visited has had stunning scenery in some parts, so it's hard to single out one or a few countries as being the "most scenic". However the countries that come to mind first for me would be Switzerland and Italy. Switzerland has a variety of types of scenery, from the beauty of the lakes to the stunning mountain scenery in the Berner Oberland. Italy also has a unique variety, from the rolling vineyards of Tuscany to the scenery of the Lakes District to the arid hills of the south and Sicily and the coastal areas of the Amalfi Coast.

Posted by
7754 posts

Going to go with Spain. Mountains, beaches, beautiful cities, and a great variety of scenery. The Pyrenees, where they meet with France are stunning. Amazing coastlines on the Atlantic and the Med.

Posted by
3858 posts

I've loved everything so far that I've seen. While Venice is my favorite city, for me, hands down Switzerland was the most beautiful for natural beauty. We only had 3 nights there, spent in Spiez, Bern and Zurich, but those Alps, man, gorgeous. I've been wanting to get back ever since (2010) and hopefully will in a few years. Was going to go in 2019 but I couldn't give it enough nights and we did Prague and Vienna instead.

Posted by
4509 posts

This is a tough one to pick, so many choices.

First, I will narrow it down based on scenic with the focus on naturally scenic.
I go with Switzerland, Norway, Greece, Croatia and Italy.

If I had to pick one, it would be Norway.

Posted by
715 posts

I've been to 33 European countries (though definitely not to all areas of all of those) and I can't think of one country that doesn't have some very scenic areas. And some of those countries have incredible variety in a very small geographic area. Italy, for example, the size of a just one US state has breathtaking mountains, gorgeous coast, and lovely bucolic areas like Tuscany. By contrast, most US states, while some having absolutely stunning scenery, most don't have that kind of variety. Maine and Florida have beautiful coasts but no mountains, Colorado has Alp like mountains but no coast. You have to travel a lot further in the US to see such variety of beautiful scenery. California does have both coast and mountains.

I'm also curious which are you ten most scenic states. I think its a lot easier to narrow the US down to 10 most scenic states than it is to pick 10 most scenic countries in Europe. But you asked if I had to pick just one country and be 'wowed' then I think Italy wins. (Plus in addition to the stunning scenery it has the most art and some of the best cities/towns.)

Posted by
605 posts

Italy gets my vote, even though natural scenery is pretty far down on the list of our reasons for going there so often.

If Iceland counts as Europe, then Iceland is next on the list.

In the States, I vote for Utah --- it's where I would send someone from Europe who wanted to see, and be able to walk around in, some spectacular nature that they wouldn't get to experience at home. Bryce Canyon, Goblin Valley, and so many other unique places packed into one state.

Posted by
2382 posts

Depends on the type of "scenic". Iceland would be a top contender for the otherworldly wow factor. Greece for seaside views, whitewashed towns on cliffs, mixed with ancient ruins. Then the Alpine countries for the Alps. Italy for a mix of mountains, seaside, and scenic towns/cities.

US states - I second Utah for the national parks (Arches, Bryce, Zion, plenty of others). That's scenery you won't get anywhere else! Hawaii would be #2, then Arizona for the Grand Canyon as well as amazing deserts. California for a wide variety of scenery. Colorado for the mountains. And to not have everything in the west...Maine deserves a mention for its rocky coastlines and deep forests.
I have not been to Alaska, but I would assume it would be very high on the list!

Posted by
1359 posts

I am still working on my blog post, and it might be another week til I assemble all the photos I want to include. I will post again when it is complete. But I will tell you my #1 US state for scenic beauty: Utah.

Posted by
1475 posts

Thoughts immediately turn to the scenic views supplied by Mother Nature, but for me, urban views top my list. Because of that I'll pick Italy. Views from a hill looking down at the Duomo in Florence, Venice from the Accademia Bridge, Multiple angles of the Colosseum in Rome, views from the water up to the townsites overlooking the Amalfi Coast....

Posted by
1692 posts

We woke up on the train early in the morning and looked out the window at Switzerland. It exceeded every postcard image we had ever imagined on our 3 month Eurail trip in 1972. I just asked the guy who was there then and he immediately said “Switzerland” too.

Posted by
379 posts

My first intro to Switzerland was a 1.5-hour $450 taxi ride to my hotel from the airport in a blizzard. At one point the car got stuck, and the meter kept running. Totally mesmerized by the landscape the next day, but that bill... 15 years later, still ouch.

Posted by
3807 posts

PerilsofP, what did you tip the driver who’d gotten you stuck and stayed on the clock?

But another thought of “most scenic,” throughout Greece, there are phenomenal landscapes, so often with ocean views in the background, and evocative ancient ruins in the foreground and/or near distance - breathtaking!

Posted by
379 posts

Well, if there is one country where tipping never even remotely crossed my mind, CHE must've been it!

Posted by
144 posts

France and Italy are our favorites! We love the southern coast of France with the mountain backdrop and the Mediterranean Sea, spectacular views, charming Riviera towns, and wonderful climate. We hope to visit more of France someday. Italy has wowed us with its variety of natural beauty, architecture, art, and ruins. Venice, Florence, Monterosso al Mare in the Cinque Terre, and Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast have remained in our hearts as treasured memories.

Posted by
11782 posts

France has some of everything so I'd make it my pick.

"Most" scenic is in the eye of the beholder. When I lived in Washington and regularly spent time in the Rockies and Cascades, I wasn't too impressed by the Austrian Alps. Now I live on the East Coast and actual mountains (e.g. Mount Blanc) have become much more impressive.

Not really scenic but medieval centers fascinate me most, because very little in the U.S. predates the 16th century. I loved York's Shambles the first time I visited two decades ago. Last year I was disappointed. They have (figuratively) turned it into a Harry Potter theme park. I liked it better when it looked run down.

Posted by
3388 posts

I'm pretty sure our planet is the same age all over, but how Mother Earth has changed in the past and continues to change every day, as well as how humans interact with her, certainly affects scenic beauty. And I must admit that I like it when she shows us who's really boss.

On my first trip to Europe, the UK and Scandinavia in 1977, I was struck by how developed and populated every place I went was. I much preferred places like Scotland and Norway because of their seeming lack of people and development.

As time has gone by, I've come to appreciate the thoughtful and considerate development I see in some countries. I still feel most comfortable in Norway and Scotland. But I have to admit that the scenic variety, both natural and human influenced, of Spain, France and Italy is breathtaking.

Of those, to me, from the Dolomites to the rolling hills of Tuscany to Sicily and including the Ligurian, Tyrrhenian, Mediterranean, Ionian and Adriatic seas around the peninsula and islands, Italy truly has it all.

Posted by
202 posts

OP asked for most scenic country in Europe, using strictly that criteria I would say Switzerland.

Posted by
1962 posts

Well, if we want to go with the criteria of European country with the most UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves, the clear winner is Spain (followed closely by Russia)!!

For those unfamiliar with the WNBR, the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve system comprises of dynamic areas comprising of diverse terrestrial, marine, and coastal ecosystems and are designated “learning places” for humanity's relationship with nature, climate, and the environment.

Here's a complete list of Spain's UNESCO Biosphere Reserves: http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/ecological-sciences/biosphere-reserves/europe-north-america/spain/

Los Picos de Europa are a personal favourite of mine - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGzWabcfCXA&ab_channel=PurplePeakAdventuresPhotography

Posted by
5452 posts

Scotland ( beaches, mountains, glens, valleys, lakes, forests, and the highlands)

Posted by
126 posts

I've only been to the UK in Europe, so I have to vote for Wales. It is so beautiful. I am from Virginia, which has so much natural beauty. And I was right at home in Wales, it is the only place I've been that compares in beauty to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

Posted by
1359 posts

Last night I posted my list of the ten most beautiful states in the US. It's on my blog (link in my profile).

I've enjoyed reading all your thoughts about the most scenic countries in Europe. It seems there are few "ugly" countries.