EUROPE - TRAVEL - TRIP-COUNTRIES -VISIT -TOURISM - TOUR GUIDE

By Joan Carmichael YEET MAGAZINE | Updated 0439 GMT (1239 HKT) October 16, 2021

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Europe — the land of high culture, high fashion, delicious food and centuries-spanning history. What’s not to love?

Well, we asked ourselves this question, and considering how many countries are in Europe, we decided there are plenty of things not to love. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but a good deal of Europe’s 44 official countries (as recognized by the United Nations) have no business being among the Greeces, Spains and Swedens of the continent.

Armed with the knowledge that, in fact, not all of Europe is so superior to the rest of the world, we set out to decide which countries are enviable and which ones just aren’t. We’re wholly certain many readers will be astonished by our conclusions. Which is to say, we fully expect many people will vehemently disagree, especially if they already have strong opinions about the best European countries to live in and visit.

Here’s our ranking of all 44 countries in Europe, from worst to first.

44. Vatican City

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Capital: Vatican City

Official Language: Italian

Area: 109 acres

Population: 618

How It Compares

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Even if you’re a true believer, why would you visit this city-state? It’s so crowded that the only things you’ll actually “see” are the sweaty bodies of the 10 million others who were let through the gates at the exact same time, all with camera phones at the ready.

Sights like the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica are incredibly impressive, sure, but as “The Chicago Tribune” accurately put it, “Overtourism [is] gripping the great treasures of humanity."

Where Is Vatican City?

43. Russia

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Capital: Moscow

Official Language: Russian

Area: 6.6 million square miles

Population: 146.7 million

How It Compares

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Check out this photo of a shirtless Putin riding a horse, and there will be no mystery as to what Russia is today and why it landed in this spot. We fear you, Vlad, we fear you mightily.

More seriously, we’ll admit that the European cities of Russia have their charms — Moscow and St. Petersburg offer much in the way of history and culture — but a tense political situation and brutal weather make the country a hard sell on the whole. Plus, as the U.S. Embassy puts it bluntly, “The Russian government maintains a restrictive and complicated visa regime for foreigners who visit.” Pass.

Where Is Russia?

42. Belarus

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Capital: Minsk

Official Languages: Belarusian, Russian

Area: 80,153 square miles

Population: 9.4 million

How It Compares

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Easily the worst of the former Soviet republics, this place is ruled by a dictator and photography is forbidden everywhere you’d want to take a picture. If you’ve had a few drinks you can forget about taking the subway in Minsk — security is known to keep people who seem at all intoxicated off the trains. Oh, and Minsk has been named the worst city in all of Europe.

If you value freedom and human rights, go literally anywhere else.

Where Is Belarus?

41. Monaco

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Capital: Monaco

Official Language: French

Area: 499 acres

Population: 38,300

How It Compares

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This European city-state is small to the point of absurdity — at 499 acres, it’s roughly the size of New York City’s Central Park. And yet, despite its micro-size, it manages to have a ton of ungodly-rich people living here, with 32 percent of the population made up of millionaires.

This ensures plenty of outrageous behavior from trust-fund kids who seem to think the rules don’t apply to them, plus over-the-top events like the Monaco Yacht Show that are essentially inaccessible to anyone who’s not fabulously loaded.

That’s fine — the uber-rich can have their gold-plated toilet seats and 2 kilometers of French Riviera. We’ll go somewhere we can actually afford to have a good time in.

Where Is Monaco?

40. United Kingdom

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Capital: London

Official Language: English

Area: 93,628 square miles

Population: 67.9 million

How It Compares

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What’s wrong with the U.K., you’re wondering? Well, where do we even begin?

We actually wonder why anyone would want to visit this place, let alone live there. The food is drab, and the weather is worse. They serve beer at room temp. The museums are free, but they stole the art from cultures with far superior artists. Oh, and a certain current political situation has the country in a state of complete and utter disarray.

There’s much for history-buffs to love — we have to give it that — but that’s true in tons of European countries that also have a lot more good stuff going on.

Where Is the United Kingdom?

39. Moldova

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Capital: Chisinau

Official Language: Romanian

Area: 13,068 square miles

Population: 2.7 million

How It Compares

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We feel sorry for Moldova, as it’s easily Europe’s most forgotten country. With fewer than 150,000 annual visitors, it’s one of the least-visited nations in the world. Its people are also among the least happy on Earth, in part because the country hasn’t recovered well from Soviet rule (have any of us really?).

Moldova is something of a living time capsule of that period, in fact. Which, if you're into that — you do you.

Where Is Moldova?

38. Liechtenstein

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Capital: Vaduz

Official Language: German

Area: 62 square miles

Population: 38,557

How It Compares

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This landlocked microstate between Austria and Switzerland is the birthplace of the greatest pop artist of all time, Roy Lichtenstein. Actually that’s not true at all — their names aren’t even spelled the same.

Nothing noteworthy has ever happened in Liechtenstein, a country routinely described as straight-up “boring,” which is why you’ll forget it as fast as you read this.

Where Is Liechtenstein?

37. San Marino

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Capital: San Marino

Official Language: Italian

Area: 23.6 square miles

Population: 33,344

How It Compares

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If you thought San Marino was a small Southern California city with luxe real estate where it’s always sunny, you were spot on. But there’s another San Marino, too: this European country landlocked by Italy that’s half the size of San Francisco.

Its greatest claim to fame is that it has more cars than people, largely due to its tax-haven status. Also, it’s super-old — around since 301 AD, it’s the oldest republic on Earth.

Other than that...well, there’s not much to say.

Where Is San Marino?

36. North Macedonia

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Capital: Skopje

Official Languages: Macedonian, Albanian

Area: 9,928 square miles

Population: 2 million

How It Compares

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Yugoslavia left a bunch of countries in its path of destruction in the 1990s, when it was broken up during a period of extreme political upheaval. And perhaps no nation is worse off now than North Macedonia, which you’ve never heard of and will never visit. Among many lingering issues, corruption is an enduring issue here and it’s one of the most polluted countries in Europe.

That said, the nation is working hard to improve — it’s even in talks to join the EU — so maybe one day in the distant future it will land on some bucket lists? Hey, stranger things have happened.

Where Is North Macedonia?

35. Iceland

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Capital: Reykjavik

Official Language: Icelandic

Area: 39,682 square miles

Population: 364,260

How It Compares

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We get it, Iceland, you’re pretty. You have strange geographical anomalies, weird lights appear in your skies at various times of the year, your residents are friendly to a fault and your hotels are made of ice.

But a lot of your cool features come with major downsides. Sure, the Northern Lights are amazing, but they’re extremely elusive, and the trade-off is near-total darkness for months on end. Your unique natural beauty has made you extremely over-touristed, which in turn is making you less beautiful. And it turns out sleeping in an ice hotel, while awesome for Insta shots, is in no way comfortable. Because, well, it involves sleeping on ice.

Also, we just think the whole layover offer is so pathetic and wastes time we’d rather be spending in the less icy parts of Europe.

Where Is Iceland?

34. Montenegro

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Capital: Podgorica

Official Languages: Montenegrin, Serbian, Bosnian, Albanian, Croatian

Area: 5,333 square miles

Population: 631,219

How It Compares

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The coolest part about this small Balkan country is how weirdly tall everyone is — the average height is more than 6 feet.

Otherwise, Montenegro is mostly known for its extremely aggressive drivers, who have rightfully been described as “insane.”

Also, according to TripAdvisor, the country’s architecture “is not, in the main of an imaginative or attractive style.” Translation: It’s pretty ugly.

Where Is Montenegro?

33. Andorra

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Capital: Andorra la Vella

Official Language: Catalan

Area: 180.55 square miles

Population: 77,543

How It Compares

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Skiing and duty-free shopping are your only reasons for existence.

We could just go to Oregon for that, where there are better beer and legal cannabis.

Where Is Andorra?

32. Luxembourg

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Capital: Luxembourg City

Official Language: Luxembourgish, French, German

Area: 998.6 square miles

Population: 613,894

How It Compares

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We’re really tired of the European microstate. These places all seem to exist because of some long-standing feud that literally no one who presently lives there understands or cares about at all.

The one thing you’ve got going for you, Luxembourg, is that one of your official languages is Luxembourgish, which sounds like you’re only partly committed to it. And since only half your population speaks it, that’s pretty appropriate.

Where Is Luxembourg?

31. Malta

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Capital: Valletta

Official Languages: Maltese, English

Area: 122 square miles

Population: 493,559

How It Compares

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It’s small and full of history. It’s got a little bit of Italian flavor and some influence from Northern Africa. It’s a Mediterranean archipelago. What could possibly go wrong? A lot, it turns out.

The small islands that comprise Malta are overcrowded with tourists and residents. The beaches, the destination's main draw, are particularly swarmed with crowds. And worst of all, the food is generic and chain-heavy.

Next.

Where Is Malta?

30. Slovenia

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Capital: Ljubljana

Official Language: Slovene

Area: 7,827 square miles

Population: 2.09 million

How It Compares

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Slovenia is one of Europe’s greenest countries and that’s about it. There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about this former Yugoslav republic except that it’s near cooler countries — its neighbors are Austria, Italy, Croatia and Hungary, which must give it an incredible chip on its shoulder.

If you’re the type who vacations for the sleep, this is your destination. There’s so little to do here that you can sleep for days without feeling guilty or missing anything.

Where Is Slovenia?

29. Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Capital: Sarajevo

Official Languages: Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian

Area: 19,741 square miles

Population: 3.5 million

How It Compares

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Another one of Tito’s children from socialist Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina could be higher on this list. It survived the last major war of the 20th century and has come a long way since then. The people are warm, the food is rich and decadent, the wilds are super-wild, it’s dirt-cheap to travel here. Plus the cities are vibrant and unafraid of their conflict-filled past.

The problem is how incredibly difficult it is to get around, thanks to a dearth of major highways and poor road conditions. Better brush up on those donkey-caravan-passing skills.

Where Is Bosnia and Herzegovina?

28. Switzerland

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Capital: Bern (de facto capital)

Official Languages: German, French, Italian, Romansh

Area: 15,940 square miles

Population: 8.57 million

How It Compares

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If we were comparing European countries to jobs, the land of chocolate and snowsports would be the CPA. It’s well-educated and wealthy, just kind of boring.

There’s nothing wrong with it — not in the least — but the food and nightlife scenes aren’t particularly thrilling, especially compared to other European countries. And the cleanliness and tidiness the country is known for can also make it feel a little sterile.

We like accountants as much as the next person. We just don't want to party with them, you know?

Where Is Switzerland?

27. Ukraine

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Capital: Kiev

Official Language: Ukrainian

Area: 233,062 square miles

Population: 42 million

How It Compares

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How the heck did Ukraine end up here? Pretty much only because of its hatred for Russia, which is admirable under any circumstances.

Otherwise, this place is about as depressing as you’d imagine for a former Soviet republic — and one where the greatest nuclear disaster in history took place.

Where Is Ukraine?

26. Finland

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Capital: Helsinki

Official Languages: Finnish, Swedish

Area: 130,666 square miles

Population: 5.5 million

How It Compares

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When we think of Nordic countries we are always surprised to remember that Finland exists.

In the pro column: It’s the happiest place on Earth.

In the con column: It’s way up there, which means it’s dark and cold. And it’s entertainment is, um, questionable — wife carrying, swamp soccer and mosquito hunting are all popular.

Where Is Finland?

25. Bulgaria

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Capital: Sofia

Official Language: Bulgarian

Area: 42,855 square miles

Population: 7 million

How It Compares

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In Bulgaria, you nod your head when you mean no and shake it for yes. But other than this confusing quirk, it’s a great place with a deep history.

The Cyrillic alphabet was invented here; its yogurt contains a special bacteria that only exists in Bulgaria; UNESCO says the country’s official calendar is the most accurate in the world; and they revere an old blind lady named Vanga who predicts the future. Cool!

Where Is Bulgaria?

24. Norway

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Capital: Oslo

Official Languages: Norwegian, Sami

Area: 148,729 square miles

Population: 5.37 million

How It Compares

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Norway is fairly middling when it comes to Europe. The food is sometimes questionable (they eat sheep heads and cure fish with lye) and most of the year it’s freezing and dark.

But they did invent the cheese slicer and also have more reindeer than anyone would ever need, so there’s that.

Where Is Norway?

23. Albania

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Capital: Tirana

Official Language: Albanian

Area: 11,100 square miles

Population: 2.85 million

How It Compares

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We largely forgot Albania existed until about 5 minutes ago. No offense, it’s just a really small country surrounded by more interesting countries. And no one has ever said, “Gee, I really wish we’d visited Albania this time.”

The country touts a fairly dramatic Adriatic coastline, gorgeous mountains and a bunch of cool old castles. But the most interesting thing about Albania is that, totally randomly, it has some of the best internet service in Europe. Who knew?

Where Is Albania?

22. Slovakia

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Capital: Bratislava

Official Language: Slovak

Area: 18,933 square miles

Population: 5.45 million

How It Compares

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Not to be confused with souvlaki, the delicious Greek barbecue dish, Slovakia is somewhere in Europe, we’re sure of it.

Just kidding, this country is actually pretty interesting, thanks in large part to its abundance of caves and castles. Fun fact: It has more castles per person than anywhere else in the world.

Where Is Slovakia?

21. Romania

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Capital: Bucharest

Official Language: Romanian

Area: 92,046 square miles

Population: 19.4 million

How It Compares

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This country is like the cool goth kid of Europe. It’s proudly defiant, with a completely different language and alphabet than all those other Slavic nations. And much of its identity is wrapped around a guy named Vlad the Impaler (the original Dracula).

Honestly, we’re into it.

Where Is Romania?

20. Serbia

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Capital: Belgrade

Official Language: Serbian

Area: 34,116 square miles

Population: 6.96 million

How It Compares

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Many will scoff at this ranking, saying Serbia isn’t even located in Europe (it’s some vast tundra of middle Russia, right?) Oh, poor uncultured soul. If not for its abysmal nationalist politics and icy relations with neighbors, we’d rank Serbia much higher for one reason: rakija (rah-key-uh). It’s a plum spirit and the national beverage, and everyone has a family member who makes it.

Make friends with a Serb and drink to your health.

Where Is Serbia?

19. Lithuania

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Capital: Vilnius

Official Language: Lithuanian

Area: 25,200 square miles

Population: 2.79 million

How It Compares

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Kudos to Lithuania for telling the Soviets to shove it back in 1990 and starting the breakup of that union. It’s also believed that Lithuanian culture survived the Iron Curtain thanks to secret home schools and smuggled history texts, which makes its people sound really awesome.

We also like the country's surprisingly good basketball team and are super-jealous of its world’s-fastest-internet status.

Where Is Lithuania?

18. Latvia

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Capital: Riga

Official Language: Latvia

Area: 24,938 square miles

Population: 1.92 million

How It Compares

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Admit it: George Costanza’s failed attempt to convert to Latvian Orthodox is your only experience with this former Soviet republic.

But while this Baltic state might not show up on anyone’s radar it’s home to some really interesting stuff. Its forests and generally unspoiled lands are unmatched in Europe, with stunning beaches to boot. And it hosts a weeklong Song and Dance Festival once every five years that’s truly epic.

Where Is Latvia?

17. Estonia

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Capital: Tallinn

Official Language: Estonian

Area: 17,462 square miles

Population: 1.33 million

How It Compares

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Estonia is the third and last of the Baltic states, which are much more worthy of Western tourism dollars than any Francophile or Anglophile will ever admit. No longer under the grip of the Soviet Union, Estonia has become a surprisingly compelling place to visit, with lots of medieval history, an exciting city in the form of Tallinn and one of the world’s most beautiful national parks, Lehamaa.

Also, it was the first country in the world to allow online voting in elections and has some of the world’s most mysterious meteorite craters. That has to count for something.

Where Is Estonia?

16. Czechia

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Capital: Prague

Official Language: Czech

Area: 30,450 square miles

Population: 10.65 million

How It Compares

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Don’t call it Czechoslovakia, don’t put ice in your pilsner and certainly don’t refer to the region it’s in as Eastern Europe. It’s Central Europe, and you’ll get yelled at for arguing otherwise.

Make like every 20-something backpacker and head to Prague, then chill out and grab a pint along with that 15-link sausage sampler in this thoroughly satisfying European nation.

Where Is the Czechia?

15. France

Jessie Fetterling

Capital: Paris

Official Language: French

Area: 247,368 square miles

Population: 67 million

How It Compares

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Mon dieu, man, what gives? How did France end up as only the 15th best European nation? Sacre bleu!

Let’s all just take some breaths and think about this. France has everything and always will, which is terribly frustrating. And they know this and so they deserve to be put in their place whenever possible. When asked to choose the most arrogant people in Europe, French people chose...themselves. That should tell you something.

Sure, the food is perfection, the art scene is out of control and there’s enough history to fill several volumes of textbooks. But can’t the French be more humble about it!?

Where Is France?

14. Ireland

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Capital: Dublin

Official Languages: English, Irish, Ulster Scots

Area: 32,595 square miles (entire island)

Population: 6.6 million (4.8 million in the Republic of Ireland and 1.8 million in Northern Ireland)

How It Compares

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Lush landscapes? Check. Incredible dairy products? Check. Guinness for days? Check. An aversion to the UK? Check.

Ireland is a beautiful place inhabited by strong accents, super-friendly locals and a distinct flair for a good time. Stereotyped to death, it still manages to evoke charm and mystique that few other European nations can ever hope for.

And congrats on finally besting France at anything (i.e., this important list).

Where Is Ireland?

13. Belgium

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Capital: Brussels

Official Languages: Dutch, French, German

Area: 11,849 square miles

Population: 11.5 million

How It Compares

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Like France, but with better chocolate and beer. Like Germany, but with better chocolate and beer. Like the Netherlands, but with better chocolate and beer. Like anywhere, but with better — oh, you get the idea.

The Belgian fries here also destroy whatever pomme frites you’ll find in la République.

Where Is Belgium?

12. Austria

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Capital: Vienna

Official Language: German

Area: 32,386 square miles

Population: 8.9 million

How It Compares

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Austria has everything Western Europe has going for it — palaces, world-class museums, unparalleled natural beauty — without all the crowds. It’s also a music-lover’s dream, with a rich classical-music history (Schubert,  Haydn and Schoenberg are all from here) and exciting contemporary live-music scene.

And what about those tiny sausages from Vienna? How could you not like those, you heathen!

Where Is Austria?

11. Croatia

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Capital: Zagreb

Official Language: Croatian

Area: 21,851 square miles

Population: 4.1 million

How It Compares

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The darling of the former Yugoslavia, Croatia boasts incredible natural beauty and some of the most interesting food and drink in all of Europe. (Try the black risotto. Trust us.) It also has by far the most beautiful stretch of Adriatic coast and well over 1,000 islands to roam around.

And yes, “Game of Thrones” filmed a lot of scenes along its Dalmatian coast. But considering the travesty that was the final season, that fact holds less appeal than it once did.

Where Is Croatia?

10. Germany

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Capital: Berlin

Official Language: German

Area: 137,847 square miles

Population: 83 million

How It Compares

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There are many things that make Germany great, from its boots of beer to its divine cuisine (Pretzels! Spätzle! So many sausages!) to its distinctive mix of fraught history and progressive present.

But all that pales in comparison to its really big words.

We’re big fans of Germany mostly because of its language and the many awesome singular words that describe something more complex. Everyone knows schadenfreude and wanderlust, but how about kummerspeck and backpfeifengesicht? Respectively, they mean the weight gained from emotional stress and the need to slap someone in the face who definitely has it coming.

The German language is the best language, basically.

Where Is Germany?

9. Hungary

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Capital: Budapest

Official Language: Hungarian

Area: 35,920 square miles

Population: 9.77 million

How It Compares

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You definitely need an appetite when you travel in Hungary, as it easily has the most underrated food scene in all of Europe. It might not be as refined as French food or as creative as Spanish cuisine, but it checks off all the boxes when it comes to simple and flavorful, starting with perfectly satisfying cheeses and breads.

Add to that a wine industry that’s also massively overlooked and enough urban-rural interplay to satisfy everyone, and we’ll pretend those centuries of autocracy were just a phase.

Where Is Hungary?

8. Italy

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Capital: Rome

Official Language: Italian

Area: 116,350 square miles

Population: 60.3 million

How It Compares

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Italy has its quirks — half a million exorcisms take place there annually, wine flows freely from fountains in town squares and locals drink an unseemly amount of caffeine every day.

Then again, it has the best wine and food in the world and some of the oldest, most interesting cities you’ll ever see, from arts-hub Florence to history-mecca Rome to fashion-forward Milan.

So really, it doesn’t matter how weird Italy can be. We’ll still never want to leave.

Where Is Italy?

7. Sweden

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Capital: Stockholm

Official Language: Swedish

Area: 173,860 square miles

Population: 10.3 million

How It Compares

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They put blonde hair dye in the water here and only eat cured fish, so how could it rank so high?

Because of its global contributions to those little things called prosperity, equality, science and technology and health, that’s why.

Locals know how to treat strangers well, they actually give parents time off to raise their kids, and if the economy isn’t humming along, the government will pay you to leave your job and relax for a while.

Actually, forget visiting Sweden. Can we move here instead?

Where Is Sweden?

6. Netherlands

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Capital: Amsterdam

Official Language: Dutch

Area: 16,164 square miles

Population: 17.4 million

How It Compares

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You must be doing something right when your country is known for its wooden shoes, mild cheeses, legal cannabis and insanely large flower industry. Bikes rule over cars. Dutch people are direct, tolerant and generally friendly. The cities are organized and clean, and the standard of living is as high as the tourists in Amsterdam’s red-light district.

What’s not to love?

Where Is the Netherlands?

5. Poland

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Capital: Warsaw

Official Language: Polish

Area: 120,733 square miles

Population: 38.39 million

How It Compares

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We’re eagerly anticipating the reactions to this one. Yes, Poland is the fifth best country in Europe. Why?

First of all, Poland is likely responsible for the bagel — a food so perfect that God must be Polish. It also has natural beauty, incredible cities, interesting food and tons of history, good and bad. Plus it's much more affordable to travel there than, say, all of Western Europe.

And it’s on no one’s radar. Shine on, Poland.

Where Is Poland?

4. Spain

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Capital: Madrid

Official Language: Spanish

Area: 195,360 square miles

Population: 47 million

How It Compares

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The siesta is real and you best not mess with it. In Spain, don’t expect to find a morning bun and coffee unless the morning starts at 1 p.m. What you will find is some of the best cuisine in the world, wines that are too delicious and affordable to be real, and a populace that just wants to party, sleep, party and sleep some more.

There are pretty beaches and fascinating cities, and a ham that takes three years to make from a pig breed that only exists here. Yes, please.

Where Is Spain?

3. Greece

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Capital: Athens

Official Language: Greek

Area: 50,949 square miles

Population: 10.77 million

How It Compares

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Where would Western Civilization be without Greece? The sentinel of the Mediterranean gave us democracy, the Olympics, sunny days, the Greek Salad, the oldest written language still around and, according to Hollywood, big fat weddings.

Aside from all those statues with the blank eyeballs, this place is magical.

Where Is Greece?

2. Portugal

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Capital: Lisbon

Official Language: Portuguese

Area: 35,603 square miles

Population: 10.28 million

How It Compares

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Portugal has everything people love about Western Europe — food, drink, scenery, sunny beaches, history, memorable cities — in a smaller, cheaper and more accessible package. You’ll never find the tourist crowds of France, Spain and Italy, and none of the smug locals either.

It’s also the third-most-peaceful country in the world, according to the Global Peace Index. And none of its neighbors are remotely close.

Still, there's one European country that bests even it...

Where Is Portugal?

1. Denmark

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Capital: Copenhagen

Official Language: Danish

Area: 16,577 square miles

Population: 5.8 million

How It Compares

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When it comes to the essentials in life, no one does it better than the Danes. They might not have the museums of France, the cuisine of Italy, the beaches of Spain and Portugal, or the wine of Croatia, but the overall quality of life in this Scandinavian country is tops in the world.

It starts with incredible and affordable health care, housing and transit. But there’s so much more. Jobs are plentiful, education is accessible, pollution and crime barely exist, and people spend very little time feeling sad and depressed about the future.

Danes even have a word called “janteloven” that basically means, we’re all equal and important and deserve each other’s respect. This makes it an awesome place to live in, an awesome place for all to visit, and the best country in Europe.

And that's just a fact.

Where Is Denmark?


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