Exploring Europe: The 10 Top Countries for Culture Lovers
Europe, the Old Continent, has so many amazing culturally rich countries with tons of interesting cultural places around them. It is always difficult to say which countries are the best or the most beautiful ones, so we’ve been curious to know if there’s an official, real list of top cultures in Europe. Based on a range of factors, including creative exports and the impact of UNESCO sites on its economy, the Good Country Index listed 125 countries by their influence on the culture around the globe. Here we listed and reviewed the 10 most culturally rich countries in Europe, so keep reading and enjoy.
There are many reasons Belgium is number one on the Good Country’s list. It’s long and rich cultural and artistic heritage came from many artists, including painters, musicians, novelists, as well as from stunning cultural places found all around the country. The famous paintings of Belgian artists are on display in museums and cathedrals across the country; the country’s contribution to the Art Nouveau movements is evident in the cityscape of Brussels — the capital, and culture is preserved well in so many wonderful museums. The impact on the music as we know it today is impeccable — let’s not forget Antoine-Joseph Sax, the Belgian-born instrument maker who invented the saxophone. Nowadays, Belgians are making an impact with their comics and cartoons, with contemporary music, as well as with numerous festivals and carnivals all around the country.
If you’re interested in many cultural places Belgium has all around its gorgeous cities, check out one of our previous blog posts “5 Most Beautiful Cities in Belgium”, and enjoy.
Brussels — the capital of Belgium
The Netherlands is a country with so many unique cultural places — take a look at the Amsterdam canals, tulip fields, the windmills of Kinderdijk, etc. We just loved exploring Amsterdam, it’s so unique, so much different from other European cities. But there’s so much more to culture besides what we can see when we step our foot into a new city.
The Netherlands gave us so much, you might not even realize it. Their astonishing historical art scene gave us some of the best artists ever. They gave us Van Gogh, that should be enough. But there’s more: there’s Rembrandt with his Night Watch, Johannes Vermeer with his Girl with the Pearl Earring, Jan van Eyck — the founder of the Flemish school, and many more. There are many great museums all around the country where you can see famous Dutch artworks, and most of them are in Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum where you can see artists from the Golden Age (the 17th century), Van Gogh Museum, and many others.
A canal tour in Amsterdam; the best way to explore this culturally rich city
Even though Switzerland is one of the most isolated countries in Europe, it’s been heavily influenced by the neighboring countries — France, Italy, and German, which is easy to tell because of the three official languages in this small European country. The culture and tradition of this rather small country are recognizable far and wide — we all know about their traditional clothing, a characteristic way of singing called yodel, and the trumpetlike wooden instrument called alphorn.
Switzerland abounds in wonderful cultural institutions and places, and many it has an impressive list of contributors to the world’s art scene. But still, many Swiss creative minds, such as architect Le Corbusier and painter Paul Klee had to leave home because they lacked opportunities to show off their work at home. On the other hand, because of its neutrality, this lovely country was a magnet for foreign creative minds during many of wars on the European grounds: Lord Byron, James Joyce, Tristan Tzara, Voltaire, Thomas Mann, Stefan George, and Ignazio Silone all visited Switzerland in seek of safe harbor and inspiration.
Alphorn — the traditional Swiss musical instrument
Estonia, the northernmost of the three Baltic states, is a country of rich cultural heritage, known for its folk song and dance, colorful handicrafts, wooden saunas, and rustic food. Tallinn, the capital, is known for the remarkable architecture in its medieval city center which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. In Tallinn, you can find the Museum of Estonian Heritage, where you can learn a lot about the culture of this wonderful country, and about the marvelous traditional architecture in the cities, and especially in the countryside.
When it comes to arts, Estonia had a great impact on the music scene in Europe. This country gave us quite a few marvelous composers, such as Arvo Pärt and Neeme Järvi, as well as the more unusual folk-metal band Metsastöll. There are various music festivals held throughout the summer, which celebrate and promote both contemporary and traditional music of Estonia.
The historic city center of Tallinn — the capital of Estonia
Sweden is one gorgeous Scandinavian country, definitely worth exploring. There are gorgeous cities full of colorful wooden buildings, traditional huts, stone fortresses and cathedrals, and impressive contemporary architecture all around the country. Its whole cultural heritage represents a perfect mixture of unique Swedish sensibility, inspired by the Nordic landscape, and the influence of other great European countries like France and Germany. These countries had a lot to do with the development of Swedish cultural identity, including the language itself.
The culture of Sweden as we know it today is hallmarked by simplicity and openness to new thoughts and trends, with a sense of wit and sincerity. These features are found both in Swedish folk music and art, as well as in the works of Swedish cultural icons such as Selma Lagerlöf, August Strindberg, Ingmar Bergman, Astrid Lindgren, and Carl Larsson.
The colorful city center in Stockholm
Denmark is a country that had a great role in the development of arts throughout its history, and to this day most arts and culture are supported and funded by the government. In many of its museums, including the great national art gallery Statensmuseum for Kunst, you will find amazing collections of both Danish and international painters. Some of the most famous Danish artists are for sure Carl Bloch and Christoffer Wilhelm Eckersberg, both from the Danish Golden Age. From the world of literature, we must mention one name that we all know for sure — Hans Christian Andersen, the author of The Little Mermaid, and other fairytales that we all love.
Besides arts, Denmark left an enormous impact on architecture. Some of the best architectural landmarks of this country are the Grundtvig’s Church in Copenhagen — a classic example of Expressionist architecture by Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klimt and contemporary Bagsværd Church, designed by Jørn Utzon — the mastermind behind the design of the Sydney Opera House.
Austria is a country of rich cultural heritage, a country of great achievements in music, theatre, literature, architecture, medicine, and science. Although its culture is a part of Germanic culture, shared with Switzerland and Germany, it was shaped and made unique by the Habsburg Empire and the Christian church. One of the best-known parts of Austrian cultural identity is the architecture of its lovely cities, especially Vienna and Salzburg, whose historic city centers were declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
We must emphasize the very special arts and crafts movement born in Vienna, called Secession, which is a part of the Art Nouveau movement. This special style was born thanks to the famous painter Gustav Klimt, Koloman Moser — graphic artist, Josef Hoffmann — architect and designer, Joseph Maria Olbrich — architect, Max Kurzweil — painter and printmaker, Ernst Stöhr — painter, graphic artist, writer, and amateur musician, and many others. Famous architect Otto Wagner joined the team a bit later but was a very notable member.
Austria is famous for its contributions to music, especially during the Classical and Romantic periods; we all know the famous compositors that Austria gave to the world: Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert, Anton Bruckner, Gustav Mahler, and Hugo Wolf. Also, we have to note that Vienna gave us two very popular genres of music: the waltz and the operetta.
We could go on and on about Austria and Vienna, but you’d probably rather discover something on your own, right? We recommend you to visit our Cultural Places platform and find our tours around Vienna, which will tell you a lot about the history of his marvelous city. These tours are a part of our #HelpingWithCulturalPlaces project, through which we donate to people in need all around Austria.
The Hofburg — the imperial palace of the Habsburg dynasty rulers
Malta is one of the smallest countries in Europe, but it doesn’t lack wonderful cultural places and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. As this small country was ruled by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs, and the Order of the Knights of St John throughout its history, its culture was heavily influenced by these foreigners. Besides these rulers, the culture was always under the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. All these rulers left a great impact on the Maltese architecture and somehow made it just perfect.
Just take a look at the capital, Valletta — it’s one of the smallest capitals in Europe, but it has so much historic architecture that UNESCO designated the whole city a World Heritage Site. It is all built in the Baroque style with golden stone buildings, ornate churches, colorful balconies, and narrow streets. If you’d like more insights into cultural places of wonderful Valletta, check out our previous blog post: “Valletta – the Tiny but Mighty Capital of Malta”.
Wonderful Valletta — the tiny capital of Malta
Ireland is a country with a strong sense of cultural identity and influence. Let’s take their national holiday St. Patrick’s Day as an example. This holiday celebrates Irish heritage and culture, but it’s somehow celebrated all around the globe. The natural beauty of Ireland plays a great role in its cultural heritage. This country loves its green landscape, mythologies (we all know about the leprechaun, right?); they all play a key role in its great works of literature, such as those written by James Joyce or W. B. Yeats.
The Irish people love and cherish their vibrant and colorful folk culture, no matter where they are. Most of them love to participate in the country’s numerous amateur musical, dance, and storytelling festivals. Also, they’re no strangers to the traditional craftworks, such as glass, ceramics, ironwork, wood-turning, linens, embroidery, and knitwear.
The green landscapes of Ireland
10. Czech Republic
As the Czech Republic is located between the Germans and Slavs, this country is heavily influenced by both of those cultures. It has also been influenced by some farther countries, like Italy, which is quite notable in the country’s wonderful Renaissance and Baroque architecture. All the foreigners’ influence brought a strong sense of national identity to the Czech culture as we know it today.
When it comes to arts, Czech Republic gave us great writers, painters, and illustrators. We must mention the writers — we all know Franz Kafka, Franz Werfel, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Max Brod. They all achieved international recognition.
The country’s capital, Prague, is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, that’s for sure. It’s historical city center has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Besides lovely architecture, the city is known for the booming arts scene and its cuisine. If you’d like to read about Prague’s cultural places, check out our blog post about this gorgeous city.
The views of Prague
So, these are the top 10 countries from the Good Country’s list, which we recommend you to check and see how each country was ranked. Do you have your favorites on this list? Or are they on the rest of the Good Country’s list? Let us know in the comment section.