Last Updated on 3rd May 2023 by Sophie Nadeau
From snow-covered landscapes to stunning mountainous vistas to some of the most beautiful and relaxing beaches in the world, there’s no shortage of European islands worth visiting. So if you’re looking for some inspiration for your next bucket list adventure, here’s your ultimate guide to the best islands in Europe…
- Santorini, Greece
- Corisca, France
- Hvar, Croatia
- Capri, Italy
- Ischia, Italy
- Milos, Greece
- Mallorca, Spain
- Elba, Italy
- The Azores, Portugal
- Tenerife, Spain
- Corfu, Greece
- Sardinia, Italy
- Skye, Scotland
- Formentera, Spain
- Lewis & Harris, Scotland
- Lundy Island, England
- Marstrand, Sweden
- Åaland Islands, Finland
- Sicily, Italy
Picture perfect and simply magical: no guide to the best islands in Europe would be complete without a nod towards Santorini. One of the most famous Greek islands, the island is best-known for its breathtaking sunsets, pastel-hued homes, and sandy volcanic beaches.
Truth be told, as well as being a sought after destination in of its own right, Santorini also happens to be one of the top places to visit for Europe island hopping thanks to its proximity with other islands in the Aegean sea. For more inspiration, check out our suggestions for spending three days in Santorini.
Truth be told, Malta is one of the best European islands. Malta is an island nation which is formed of several islands (the three largest are Malta, Gozo and Comino and these are the only islands which are inhabited).
The island of Malta is the biggest and is home to the capital city of Valletta. Officially, the group of islands is called the Republic of Malta and the country is one of the smallest in Europe (and the world).
Malta is located in between Sicily and the North African coast and is famous for its stunning architecture and natural landscapes, which are so breathtaking that they have been used as the backdrop for many a filming location over the years. Most recently, the Maltese islands of Malta and Gozo were used to film the hit series Game of Thrones.
Situated to the south of Mainland France, the island of Corsica is a beautiful Mediterranean destination with its own distinct culture and heritage. The European isle is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and is famous for its fabulous hiking trails (over half of the island is a national park) and sandy sunny beaches.
Other than relaxing on the beach, other things to do in Corsica include exploring the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte (the famous French general was born on the island and today his birthplace is a museum, Maison Bonaparte), visiting the 9th-century founded Bonifacio Citadel, and exploring the delightful fishing towns dotted across the island.
If stunning weather, beautiful beaches, and breathtaking towns are your thing, then you need to look no further than the European island of Hvar, which can be found in the Adriatic Sea. One of the Croatian Dalmatian islands, the island has been important since antiquity on account of its strategic position off the coast of Croatia.
Best seen over the course of a long weekend so as to enjoy all that the island has to offer, some of the best things to do in Hvar include sampling the local food (fresh seafood is a Croatian speciality), wandering around Hvar town (the main town on the island of Hvar is also called Hvar), and relaxing on one of the many secluded beaches dotted around the island. For more inspiration, check out our suggested 3 days in Hvar itinerary.
Delightful to visit as a day trip from nearby Sorrento, Capri is a picture perfect sunny island off the coast of Italy, the boot-shaped country of Southern Europe. Of all the islands in Europe listed here, Capri is easily one of my favourites to visit thanks to its many scenic vistas and laidback ambiance.
In all honesty, this is one of those European islands which you could easily cover over the course of a day while on a longer European trip. You simply need to hop on a ferry from Sorrento (a town famed for its citrus fruits) and take the twenty minute to reach Capri.
Once there, some of the best things to do in Capri include the Blue Grotto (world famous for its crystal clear waters), snapping photos of the Via Krupp winding road, and taking a boat trip around the island in order to get another view of the picture perfect isle.
Those who are looking to head a little off the beaten path and yet stay around the Bay of Naples would do well to skip Capri and instead head to the island of Ischia. A little less visited than its famous neighbour, Ischia offers plenty of delights such as small fishing villages, historic castles, and a chance to sample rural Italy.
Best seen over the course of a few days (though you can, of course, visit as a day trip from the Naples area), some of the top highlights of Ischia include visiting Castello Aragonese d’Ischia, relaxing in the resort town of Sant’Angelo and exploring the port of Ischia. For even more inspiration, be sure to check out our suggested Ischia itinerary.
For a Greek island with an amazing food scene, a fascinating history, and some seriously incredible landscapes, you need to look no further than that of Milos, one of the Cyclade Islands of Greece. After all, this is the island where the Venus di Milo (which is now located within the Louvre Museum) was rediscovered during the 19th-century.
Today, there is a small museum on the island dedicated to various finds from antiquity. Other highlights of this hidden gem of Greece include visiting Sarakíniko (the beach has the most unusual lunar like rock formations and gives access to a crystal clear sea), visiting the many picturesque towns on Milos, and discovering the hilltop capital city of Plaka.
The island of Mallorca (also written as Majorca) is the largest of the Balearic Islands of Spain and can be found in the Mediterranean Sea. The capital of the city is Palma and some of the best things to do on this island in Europe include visiting one of the island’s many wineries, visiting one of Mallorca’s beaches (Playa Formentor is one of the most popular), and going hiking on one of the island’s many hiking trails.
If there’s one dreamy island in Europe that you won’t want to miss off of any Europe bucket list, it’s Elba in Italy. The island is famous historically for harbouring Emperor Napoleon during his exile in 1814.
Today the European island lies off the coast of Tuscany and is known for its dreamy beaches and plenty of outdoor sporting opportunities. Among other things, visitors to the island will be able to enjoy gold, surfing, mountain biking, and trekking.
The Azores, Portugal
So breathtaking is the archipelago in the mid-Atlantic that it’s a must-see for those who love dramatic landscape photography and breathtaking vistas. The group of islands can be found in the Macaronesia region of the North Atlantic Ocean.
The islands are best-known for being fantastic spots from which to go whale and dolphin watching. Other activities in and around the Azores include going hiking on one of the islands’ many trails,
The European island of Tenerife really does have it all. As well as its holiday resorts and blue flag beaches (making the Spanish isle perfect for all-inclusive family holidays), Tenerife also boasts mountainous regions, stunning hikes, and an amazing climate which ensures sun for quite a bit of the year.
As one of the most popular places to visit in Greece, it should come as no surprise that Corfu is one of the best islands in Europe. Located in the Ionian Sea, Corfu is best-known for its 200km worth of coastline (meaning lots of fantastic hiking opportunities), sheer amount of greenery (Corfu is so green that it’s often called the Emerald Isle), and amazing local Greek cuisine. If you’re looking for more Corfu inspiration, be sure to check out our suggested Corfu itinerary.
Situated in the Mediterranean Sea, the Island of Sardinia is just off the coast of Italy and boasts 2000km of coastline. The island is perhaps most famous for its crystal clear turquoise waters, which in turn makes it one of the best places in Europe for water-based activities (think swimming, sailing, snorkelling, and more)! For more inspiration, be sure to check out how to spend one week in Sardinia.
Ethereal and mystical, the Isle of Skye is easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Europe, let alone in the UK. Situated off the coast of Scotland, Skye is best-known for its mountainous landscapes which attract many a photographer and keen hiker year on year.
The island is the largest of the Inner Hebrides of Scotland and also boasts quaint fishing villages and historic castle ruins. Other activities to do on the isle of Skye include swimming in the Fairy Pools, going bird watching, and seeing the Old Man of Storr (a rather unusual rock formation) for yourself.
Yet another island in Europe which is part of Spain is that of Formentera, which is a 35 minute ferry ride away from the much more famous island of Ibiza. Its proximity to other isles means that Formentera is perfect for Spanish island hopping.
Part of the Balearic Islands and located in the Mediterranean Sea, some of the best things to do in Formentera include rambling and hiking along the coastline, sampling local seafood-forward Spanish cuisine, and soaking up and ambiance of all the delightful port and coastal towns across the island.
Lewis & Harris, Scotland
Yet another stunning island off the coast of Scotland which is one of the Europe islands well worth discovering is that of Lewis and Harris, which is part of the Outer Hebrides, and is sometimes referred to as Lewis with Harris.
As well as the sheer beauty of the place, other things to do on the Europe isle of Lewis and Harris include visiting prehistoric sites, admiring the quaint fishing village of Stornoway, and discovering a history of the island at the museum of Nan Eilean.
Lundy Island, England
Easily one of the most beautiful and stunning islands off the coast of England is that of Lundy Island, which is home to puffins and has been on my bucket list for the longest time! Located off the coast of North Devon, Lundy is an island in the Bristol Channel.
What makes Lundy so special is that it can actually only be visited during certain times of the year and is best seen as part of a long weekend (i.e. an overnight stay on the island) in one of the many historical properties dotted across the isle.
Other highlights of this European isle include discovering the island’s lighthouse, embarking on a hike (it takes around six hours to hike across the whole island) and going letterboxing (searching for stamps in tupperware boxes which are hidden across Lundy via clues).
Situated a few hours drive North of the second largest city in Sweden, Gothenburg, the island of Marstrand is also home to a town of the same name. Its tranquil nature makes it one of the most beautiful islands in Europe.
Surrounded by the sea and populated by the traditional Swedish architecture that is so synonymous with the country, the town of Marstrand is well worth a visit over the course of a long weekend (or even longer if you really want to escape from the hustle and bustle of busy every day life).
It can be found along the Bohulsän coastline and is spread over two of some eight thousand islands in the region. Home to centuries worth of history, historically the island was well-known for its herring and quarry trades.
Åaland Islands, Finland
Serene and peaceful, the Åaland Islands are an autonomous group of Islands off the coast of Finland and are some of the most lovely islands of Europe. Rather remote, there are actually some 6,700 islands in total, though many of these are tiny. The region’s population is around 30,000 and they live across 60 of the islands.
As well as being a beautiful place to soak up nature, some of the best things to do in the Åaland Islands include plenty of outdoor sports (hiking and sailing), seeing Bomarsund (the remains of a Russian fortress), and discovering local saunas.
Of course, if you’ve ever looked up some of the best places to visit in Italy, not to mention some of the best islands to visit in Europe, then Sicily is almost always near the top of the list. After all, as the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, there’s no shortage of beautiful sea vistas, water-based activities, and stunning fishing towns.
The island can be found just off the toe of the boot of Italy (Italy is a boot-shaped country in the South of Europe) and is famous for being where Mount Etna, the largest volcano in Europe is located. History buffs will be delighted to discover the ancient Greek Temples in ‘The Valley of Temples’.
Last but not least, one of the largest islands in Europe (as well as being a country in its own right- the largest island in Europe is the UK) is that of Iceland. Located just below the Arctic Circle, Iceland can be found in the Atlantic Ocean between North America and Europe.
The country is famously known as the Land of Fire and Ice thanks to its abundance of glaciers and volcanoes, and there is just one main road circling around the country, making it perfect for road trips (check out our best road trip tips). Iceland also happens to be one of the best places for solo female travel in Europe.
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