Europe is the continent that packs a lot in. One minute you could be sunning yourself on a Greek island, the next churning up snow on the slopes of the Alps, or navigating Venetian canals by gondola before diving into Berlin’s edgy nightclubs. And while this corner of the world promises spectacular natural landscapes, charming villages and towns oozing with character – it’s the bustling, sprawling cities of Europe we love the most. For those who simply crave that urban roar, we’ve studied noise level data to put together this list of Europe’s five busiest cities. Through the app ‘WideNoise’, we’ve used genuine sound data recorded by people right across the continent, matched with their GPS locations to see which cities boom the loudest. Read on and see which one suits you best.
Its landmarks tend to hog the limelight – of which the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon are just a few – but Rome is in fact a thriving metropolis, home to 4.3 million people.
With perhaps the richest history of any city on Earth, there’s certainly no shortage of grand buildings and museums for you to explore, as well as an entirely separate state in the form of Vatican City. Much more than just a cluster of historic cityscapes, Rome’s districts offer something for everyone. From music spilling out of trendy bars and vintage shops hidden among the medieval, winding streets of Trastevere; to football-fans’ cheers bouncing off San Lorenzo’s crumbling, graffitied walls and its burgeoning night scene – see what you find when you scratch the surface.
Best spot to take it all in: Rome has no end of vast piazzas and bustling squares, but our favourite has to be Piazza Santa Maria. Cosier and more intimate than most, you’ll get a true taste of Roman life here.
Frankfurt is a city of great contrasts. And while its gleaming skyline of glass and steel is sure to be the first thing you notice; that’s only part of the story.
One of Europe’s leading financial hubs, Frankfurt matches its work with plenty of play. In the shadow of ‘Mainhattan’s’ towers are the authentic medieval alleyways of Altstadt (old town); 50 acres of breath-taking botanical gardens; two of Europe’s newest, biggest and coolest shopping malls; plus more up-and-coming districts than you could shake a stick at. If you’ve only got a few days, diving into the chatter-filled delis and boutiques of Sachsenhausen and grabbing a beer in the rowdy, stein-swinging halls of Nordend should be top of the list.
Best spot to take it all in: Experience the city’s buzz from the cobbles of bustling Römerberg – a square in the old town.
Istanbul is the city where two worlds collide. Sitting half in Europe and half in Asia, Turkey’s largest city makes its unique clash of Eastern and Western culture its greatest asset.
A rich, cultural whirlwind awaits when you dive beneath the minaret-towered skyline that adorns both sides of the Bosphorus, and while you might prefer to explore lesser-known sights when you travel, you simply cannot afford to miss Istanbul’s icons. Hagia Sophia is one of the world’s grandest and most imposing buildings – you’re sure to be left gobsmacked by its intricate marble and mosaic interior – while the Sultanahmet District is the city’s oldest and hosts Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic architecture side by side.
Of course, Istanbul is every bit a modern metropolis too, so you always have a choice. Dive into the souks amid haggling cries and barter for handmade wares, or shop for high-end fashion in chic boutiques. Eat something other-worldly in a glossy concept sky bar, or slip into a family-run taverna as a local band plays and enjoy some rustic Turkish fare. It’s all up to you.
Best spot to take it all in: The 360 skyline views from the beautiful Galata Tower can’t be beaten.
When you think ‘Paris’, you envisage grand tree-lined boulevards flanked by ornate architecture, ageing bistros spilling off street corners and into quiet cobbled lanes – all set to a backdrop of cloud-scraping wrought iron. And that’s not wrong, per se.
If you’re taking a city break to Paris, it’s only natural you’ll want a day or two to take in the French capital’s most iconic spots, sights and museums – but as a city of over 10 million people, the opportunities for exploration are nigh-on limitless. Join the Canal St Martin at République. Lounge in its tree-shaded quays, stealing Instagram-ideal snaps of its wrought iron footbridges as you go, before following it out of the city. Soon enough, you’ll be surrounded by shabby-chic bars and edgy watering holes, thrift stores hidden in alleyways and only-there-if-you-know-where-to-find-it nightspots. This is Paris as Parisians know it.
Best spot to take it all in: Sitting in the shadow of the beautiful Sacré-Cœur, the cosy Place du Tertre is quintessentially Paris.
You don’t have to search far and wide to find someone who’ll tell you Barcelona is the world’s greatest city. From the shaded streets and bustling squares of the old town to the sprawling grid of the new, there’s signs of life everywhere you look – not least in the exquisite works of Antoni Gaudi, which appear to blossom wherever you least expect them.
You’ll know where to find his most famous work, however. The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is an icon 135 years (and counting) in the making, which goes some way to explaining why it’s regularly lauded as the most beautiful building on the planet. From landmarks to lesser-known gems, hip districts like Gràcia have something for everyone; vintage stores, cool cafés and quirky nightspots – it’s the very definition of cosmopolitan.
Best spot to take it all in: Las Ramblas may be popular as Barcelona’s beating heart, but we prefer Rambla de Catalunya.
From the mosques of Istanbul to the ancient streets of Rome and glass spires of Frankfurt’s financial district, plan your European getaway today with flights from Manchester Airport.