Green Cities: Europe's Most Eco-Friendly Capitals
here are plenty of green cities in Europe to choose from that are doing their best to become sustainable destinations.
Europe is home to some of the most forward-thinking and eco-friendly cities in the world. Add to this the wealth of natural beauty, heady blend of cultures rich with intertwined history, and convenient transport links via rail and sea, and you can see why Europe is a hotspot for eco-friendly travel seekers.
Here are ten of Europe’s best and greenest cities, offering an urban escape with less of the carbon footprint.
1. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Nestled among mountains, lakes, and forest-clad hills, it’s no wonder that Slovenia’s capital of Ljubljana is one of Europe’s most environmentally friendly cities. It was, in fact, voted the European Commission's Green Capital of Europe in 2016.
With a medieval old town and elegant 20th-century architecture, Ljubljana is a historic yet vibrant city, with a thriving university population bringing young and forward-thinking energy.
It is also one of the smallest European cities. Despite this, Ljubljana boasts over 500 square meters of dedicated green spaces and 200 kilometers of cycle paths. A bicycle share scheme is open to locals and tourists alike; it’s well worth a cycle around the beautiful Tivoli Park, and the city at large.
And for eco-conscious travellers, the Bee Path is not to be missed. This is a trail of over 4,500 beehives through the city, both a conservation effort and a celebration of the urban beekeeping tradition in Ljubljana.
2. Oslo, Norway
Another European capital surrounded by sweeping natural beauty is Oslo, with the Marka Forest and breathtaking Oslo Fjords an easy trip from the city. Home of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Norwegian capital is known for its eclectic architecture, sumptuous seafood, and museums celebrating its rich Viking history.
Oslo is widely considered one of the most advanced green cities in Europe. Huge areas of the city are completely car-free, and much of the public transport - such as trams and electric buses - run directly on renewables.
The city aims to be entirely emissions-free by 2030, and there is a national subsidy for electric vehicles and solar panels. Oslo is an ambitious green city rich with Scandinavian culture, making it one of the best eco-friendly destinations around.
Here are some fantastic eco hotels in Oslo to check out.
3. Helsinki, Finland
Perched on the Gulf of Finland, Helsinki is a beautiful capital made up of over 300 islands in the Helsinki Archipelago. It is well known for its sea-facing landscape, an abundance of urban green spaces, and six surrounding national parks, such as the stunning Pallas-Yllästunturi.
Walking, cycling and public transport make up around 80 percent of all journeys in Helsinki, and the city boasts some of the purest water and cleanest air in Europe.
It’s also a bustling seaport; travellers can arrive in Helsinki from a huge number of other green destinations via the Baltic Sea, including Sweden, Estonia, and St. Petersburg, opening up a wealth of flightless adventure options.
4. Amsterdam, Netherlands
Often referred to as the gateway to Europe, Amsterdam is another city very easily accessible via boat, including from Newcastle, UK, making it a fantastic destination for low-impact travel seekers. You can also easily catch a train to Amsterdam from several European destinations, and even London.
This romantic 17th-century capital is famed for its cycling culture, as well as colourful tulip gardens, historic winding canals, and world-famous museums such as the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Anne Frank House.
Amsterdam is also a city with ambitious climate goals, aiming for all traffic to be climate neutral and gas-free by 2030, with ample emissions-free transport via road and water.
5. Stockholm, Sweden
A 14-island archipelago looking out on the Baltic Sea, Stockholm is a majestic capital with a strong nautical heritage, cosy cobblestone streets, and strong eco-credentials.
The compact layout makes it both a walking and cycling-friendly city, with 900 kilometres of bicycle lanes as well as bio-fueled taxis and buses.
Almost 80 percent of hotels in Stockholm are sustainably accredited by third-party certifying bodies, making it one of the easiest destinations in Scandinavia for eco-conscious travel. The Vasa Museum is a must-see in Stockholm, offering a snapshot of its fascinating maritime history.
Check out this range of eco hotels in Stockholm for your next trip.
6. Tallinn, Estonia
Estonia’s capital city of Tallinn is known as one of the most beautiful green cities in Eastern Europe. It is full of fascinating medieval structures in the historic old town, now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Tallinn also has its fair share of natural beauty, with the breathtaking Jagala Waterfall only a thirty-minute train from the city.
Tallinn has been awarded the title of European Green Capital for 2023 for its pioneering efforts in sustainability. Contributing to this are its free public transport, and a carbon-neutral roadmap aiming at a 40 percent emissions reduction by 2030.
This range of eco hotels in Tallinn lets you enjoy a low-impact stay in the Estonian capital.
7. Berlin, Germany
A true powerhouse for the arts and culture, Berlin’s young population and turbulent recent history have made it a city quick to embrace change, and quick to adopt innovative sustainability practices.
Since 1990 Berlin has cut its carbon emissions by one-third and offers recycling incentives to its inhabitants - €0.25 for every plastic bottle recycled.
Berlin is also repeatedly dubbed the vegan capital of the world, with an impressive number of meat-free restaurants scattered across the city. To add to all this, Berlin contains some of the most beautiful parks on the continent such as the famous Tiergarten right in the heart of the city.
Check out our article on the best eco-hotels in Berlin for a sustainable stay.
8. Madrid, Spain
Madrid is a vast and bustling metropolis, home to an estimated six million inhabitants and filled with elegant boulevards and architecture. Despite its size, Madrid is way ahead when it comes to forward-thinking, environmentally-friendly schemes.
In 2018 vast areas of the city centre became car-free, and over 80 percent of inner-city travel is emissions-free. Plans have also been announced to build an urban forest circling Madrid, dubbed the ‘green wall,’ to be made up of nearly half a million indigenous trees which could absorb 175,000 tons of carbon per year.
Madrid is also committed to its green spaces and public parks; the Atocha Station is well worth a visit even if you’ve no train to catch, to experience the striking billowing greenery.
Browse these sustainably-minded hotels in Madrid for your next stay.
9. Copenhagen, Denmark
The Danish capital of Copenhagen has some serious eco-credentials and makes for a fantastic city break with its striking architecture, winding waterways, and world-famous food scene.
Copenhagen is often cited as one of the most eco-friendly cities in the world, with one of the happiest populations. It is impressively powered by 95 percent renewable hydropower energy, and its climate goals are way ahead of the curve, with plans to be carbon neutral by 2024.
The city’s cycling culture is also truly impressive, with dedicated traffic systems making it the preferred transport method for many inhabitants. There's nothing quite like exploring with an eco-friendly cycling tour of Copenhagen.
Eco hotels in Copenhagen are also some of the best in Europe, making it easy to enjoy a low-impact city break in Denmark's capital.
10. Bern, Switzerland
Cradled by the Aare River and surrounded by mountains and forest, Bern is a picturesque capital that is green in every sense of the word. It received the European Energy Gold Award in 2019 and has held the Fair Trade Town label since 2017 for its commitment to fair trade practices and sustainable use of resources.
It’s also widely considered to be the centre of European climate research, home to The Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research.
With its beautifully preserved medieval architecture and reverence for nature, this tranquil capital will hold many delights for green travellers.
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