Explore Europe with these travel ideas in 2023

Exhibitions of work by Picasso, Vermeer and El Greco; music festivals; skiing, sailing and rugby competitions: Europe has a year full of activities that invite a visit

Union Square aerial view with the surrounding baroque style buildings
Union Square aerial view with the surrounding baroque style buildingsAdrian-Catalin Lazar (Alamy)

2023 has just begun, and all of Europe is preparing for a year of tourism. New attractions add to the promising climate for tourism in the coming months. Wanderlust is the new pandemic.

Pillars of nostalgia

This year marks 50 years since Picasso’s death. Fifty exhibitions and events around the world mark the occasion. In Paris, the Center for Picasso Studies will open at the Musée Picasso. A celebration of Vermeer’s life gives an excuse to explore his hometown, Delft, with 12 sites that inspired him and activities throughout the Netherland city. France also observes the centennial of the death of writer Pierre Loti, whose Rochefort home is a must for every traveler, and Italy will honor the centennial of the birth of fellow literato Italo Calvino. The town of Bamberg, Germany observes the bicentennial of the death of ETA Hoffmann, who influenced Poe and Kafka. And Belfast, Ireland, festivities for the 125 years since the birth of C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, include an urban tour, a new square and a festival in November. Greece celebrates one hundred years since Maria Callas’s birth, opening a new museum dedicated to her in Athens. December will begin the nine-month Ensor 2024 festival in Ostend, Belgium, with events related to the expressionist painter.

The statues of the fisherman and the ferryman were created in 1941 by Janos Pasztor, Balatonfuered, Veszprem County, Central Transdanubia, Hungary
Two statues of a fisherman and a ferryman, created in 1941 by Janos Pasztor, in Veszprem, Hungary.Gunter Kirsch (Alamy)

The capitals

Europe has three Capitals of Culture this year: Timișoara, Romania; Veszprem, Hungary; and Eleusis, Greece. The cosmopolitan university town of Timisoara tends to be left out of most itineraries — unfairly so, as in addition to its rich architectural heritage, it was the starting point of the Revolution that ended the dictatorship in 1989. Activities include an exhibition about the sculptor Constantin Brancusi, whose Sculptural Ensemble at Targu-Jiu — a sculpture garden — lies halfway between Bucharest and Timisoara. The Hungarian city Veszprem focuses its cultural concerns on the Batony-Balaton region, with the Fragile Balaton program that seeks to revitalize the Balaton lake. Eleusis, 20 kilometers east of Athens, adopts the slogan “Mysteries of Transition,” hosting activities at five archaeological sites, the historic port and old factories transformed into cultural centers. Italy has its own cultural capitals: two Lombardy cities, Bergamo and Brescia.

This year’s European Green Capital is Tallinn, Estonia, who won the title because of its air quality, parks and low levels of sound pollution. It is also practical for visitors: in the Estonian capital, public transportation is free. There are also two Capitals of Smart Tourism this year: Sevilla and Paphos, the jewel of Cyprus, on whose beaches Aphrodite was born from the sea foam.

Now or never: One-time events

There are many exhibitions to emphasize in 2023. Leuven, Belgium hosts a festival dedicated to Dieric Bouts (Bouts 2023: New Perspectives in Leuven). In the Swiss city of Bernem, the Zentrum Paul Klee, which is camouflaged among the hills, will show 75 works by Miró from January to May. The Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest will bring together over 70 pieces related to El Greco, including fifty by the artist himself. In Vienna, the Belvedere Museum will show Klimt paintings along with those of other painters who influenced him. And two great musical events are on the agenda: the Latvian Song Festival from June 30 to July 9 in Riga, held every five years in the Mezaparks auditorium, and the Puccini Festival in Lucca, Italy in July and August.

Joan Miró obra
A head sculpted by Joan Miró in 1978.© Successió Miró / 2023

The world of sports

France will host both the Rugby World Cup, which will take place across nine different cities, and the World Skiing Championship. The world cycling championship will take place in Glasgow in August. Also in Scotland — in Lerwick, Shetland Islands — the Tall Ships regatta will be held in July. And Rome, in September, will host golf’s Ryder Cup, the most important competition in the sport.

Good neighbors

Birgi, Odemis, Izmir, Turkey
The town of Birgi, in Turkey, chosen by the World Tourism Organization as Best Tourism Village.semakokal / GETTY IMAGES

Birgi, Turkey, chosen by the World Tourism Organization as the Best Tourism Village

Turkey, an eternal aspirant to the European club and the bridge between Europe and Asia, adds to the panoply of dream destinations: Birgi has been named by the World Tourism Organization as the Best Tourism Village. This year Israel presents the Israel Pass card, which grants access to three, six or all of the country’s national parks, which include the country’s primary archaeological and tourist attractions. Across the Jordan River, Amman appears on several lists as one of the recommended destinations for 2023.

Passersby on a street of La Valeta, Malta

Street in Valetta, Malta
Walkers through one of the streets of Valletta, in Malta.Sylvain Sonnet (The Image Bank / GETTY IMAGES)

Other destinations of note

The United Kingdom will celebrate the coronation of Charles III and the queen consort Camila on May 6 in London. A week later, Liverpool hosts Eurovision. For World Youth Day in Lisbon, from August 1 to 6, 200,000 young people will join Pope Francis. And Europride will take place in La Valeta, Malta, from September 7 to 17.

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