The best low pollution holidays in Europe

Europe offers so many amazing destinations, from city to beach to countryside hideaways, that it can be hard choosing where to go. If you’re on the lookout for a new place to visit, you’ve come to the right place.

Using Numbeo’s pollution index, we took the top 50 European cities and analysed several factors. These included green space, noise pollution levels, hours of sunshine, the number of activities to do, and more. So, read on to discover the top 10 low pollution European destinations, as well as the best places to visit if you’re visiting as a family, or as a couple.

1. London, UK

Topping our list as the best low pollution destination is London, which has the highest number of searches a month, at a huge 1.5 million.

With 651 activities for kids, and 1,000 for couples (the highest on our list), there’s no end of things to do. If you’re planning on taking the whole family to London, then you could head to SEA LIFE or London Zoo, or even catch a matinee show in the West End.

Alternatively, if you’re planning a romantic trip away, then you could spend an evening hopping across the capital’s many rooftop bars, book a cruise down the River Thames, or enjoy a stroll around one of London’s most popular parks.

2. Valencia, Spain

In second place is the sunny city of Valencia – in fact, it has the joint third highest amount of sunshine, at an average of 7.6 hours a day, and with 11 beaches in total, there are lots of opportunities to relax and unwind.

Malvarossa Beach is the main beach in the city, and can be reached by tram, but if you want to get into watersports while you’re out there, then El Saler is the better option.

3. Stockholm, Sweden

Sweden’s capital has the fourth lowest pollution levels on our list, as well as the joint fifth lowest rainfall, at an average of 525mm a year.

Stockholm’s Gamla Stan (Old Town) sits on its own island, and is lined with pretty colourful buildings housing coffee shops, restaurants, and souvenir shops. Other things that are a must-see include the Royal Palace, Skansen, which is a park that’s home to the world’s oldest open-air museum, and if you like rollercoasters, head to Gröna Lund.

What you might not know is that Stockholm boasts 10 beaches, and the nearby archipelago is great for a day trip in the summer.

4. Split, Croatia

Croatia’s second largest city, Split, sits on the Adriatic Sea, and has 12 beautiful beaches to discover – the highest on our list. Bačvice is the favourite amongst locals, and is one of the few sandy beaches in the area, but Žnjan is the largest of the beaches – although it’s pebbled.

Almost 38% of Split is covered in green space, so once you’ve had your fill of walking around the city centre and enjoying a cold, refreshing drink in the shade; head to nearby Marjan Park, or enjoy a day trip to Krka National Park, with seven stunning waterfalls, and a 221 different species of birds.

5. Lisbon, Portugal

With the second highest levels of sunshine, at an average of 7.7 hours a day, Lisbon offers the perfect combination of beach and city, if you’re looking for a low pollution holiday away.

Boasting 336 activities to do with kids, and 462 activities for couples, there’s no end of things to experience in Lisbon. For a fun, family holiday, fill your time visiting the Oceanario Aquarium, which is home to lots of marine life, including penguins and sea otters, before hopping on the cable car right outside, or even the Lisbon Science Museum.

Alternatively, for a couple’s holiday, spend a day wandering around the narrow streets of the city centre, finding cosy cafes and bars to stop off at, book a sunset cruise, or enjoy a picnic at the Jardin Botanico de Ajuda.

6. Madrid, Spain

With 7.8 hours of sunshine a day on average, Madrid is the sunniest of all cities, as well as being the second driest, with around 455mm of rainfall a year.

Home to one of the best art museums in the world, spend an afternoon at the Prado, which is full of renaissance and baroque artwork, before heading to the nearby Retiro Park, where you can wander around the gardens and sit by the Grand Pond.

Other things to check out in the Spanish capital are the Royal Palace, Puerta del Sol, and Grand Vía, for some serious shopping.

7. Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki has the lowest pollution levels in Europe, and the city also boasts five beaches to visit during your time there.

Key sights include the orthodox-looking Helsinki Cathedral, with its whitewashed walls and green dome, Esplanadi, which is a green park in the centre of the city where you can sit with a picnic in the summer, and Seurasaari Island, which is an open-air museum that showcases the history of Finland.

If you’re travelling to Helsinki with kids, then spend the day at Linnanmäki, a theme park which is just 10 minutes out of the city by tram, or Hietaniemi Beach, with its long sandy strip and cute cafes.

8. Prague, Czech Republic

With the sixth highest percentage of green space in the city, at nearly 40%, Prague’s a great city to spend outdoors – especially considering it has the fifth lowest rainfall, at an average of 525mm a year.

Letná Park boasts beautiful views, and two beer gardens, but Stromovka Park is the biggest in the city, at almost 250 acres, with several ponds and restaurants to visit.

Other iconic attractions to visit in Prague include Charles Bridge, which is lined with artists selling their work, the astronomical clock, and Prague Castle, which sits right at the top of the hill, and boasts views of the whole city.

9. Tallinn, Estonia

Estonia’s capital has the lowest levels of noise pollution in Europe, at just 6.8%, as well as some of the lowest pollution levels too.

The Old Town is without a doubt, the prettiest part of the city, so spend a day getting lost in the winding cobblestoned streets, before enjoying a drink at one of the outdoor bars or cafes.

If you’re a history buff, head to the KGB Museum in Viru Hotel, to see the secret floor where guests were spied on during Soviet times; and then for some fresh air, spend a few hours at Kadriorg Park, with its very own Swan Lake.

10. Berlin, Germany

Rounding off our top 10 list of the best low pollution holiday destinations is Berlin, with the seventh lowest noise pollution levels on our list, at just under 30%, and the eighth lowest rainfall, at 535mm a year.

Berlin is a city of history, and there are lots of key sights to visit, whether you’re visiting as a couple, or with kids. Checkpoint Charlie, Brandenburg Gate, and the East Side Gallery are all must-sees; but you could also head to Museum Island, or for some greenery, go to Tiergarten, which is one of the biggest parks in Germany.

Berlin is also known for its beer, coffee, and cocktail culture, so make sure you sample several coffee shops and bars while you’re there.

The best low pollution holidays for families

If you’re looking for a low pollution destination to take the kids to, then London, Lisbon, Madrid, Prague, and Athens all come out on top, with the biggest number of kid-friendly activities available.

We’ve already mentioned a few things you can take the little ones to in London and Lisbon, but if you’re thinking of things to do in Madrid, then you could head to the nearby theme park Casa de Campo, which has over 30 rides, or the Planetarium, where you can gaze up at the stars and learn more about the solar system.

If you’re visiting Prague as a family, then pack a picnic and head to Slav Island, which has a mini train ride, or head to Prague Zoo, which you can reach by boat. Alternatively, if Athens is calling your name, then once you’ve visited the Acropolis, head to Syntagma Square, where you can watch the changing of the guard every hour, before visiting the National Garden, which is home to a playground, two duck ponds, and a small zoo.

The best low pollution holidays for couples

If it’s a romantic destination you’re after, then London has the biggest number of activities available for couples, followed by Prague, Lisbon, Amsterdam, and Madrid.

Amsterdam’s canals are the perfect backdrop for a stroll, as you take in the pretty buildings, and stop off for a coffee and a Stroopwafel. Budapest and Edinburgh score highly for couples too, and if you’re in Budapest, you should head straight to one of the thermal baths for some relaxation, before checking out the ruin bars in the evening.

If you’re thinking of visiting Edinburgh, then why not hike up to the top of Arthur’s Seat to enjoy views of the city, before heading to a cosy bar for some whisky tasting?

The best low pollution holidays in the UK

London and Edinburgh are both great staycation options if you’re looking for a trip that’s low pollution, but there are lots of other alternatives too.

Birmingham, Belfast, Manchester, and Glasgow all fall within our top 50 cities, and all offer lots of amazing sights that are unique to each city. The Bull might be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Birmingham, but you could also watch a concert at the Symphony Hall, or a ballet at the Hippodrome.

Alternatively, if you’re in Belfast, then a trip to the Titanic Museum is a must, alongside St. George’s Market, and CS Lewis Square, where you’ll see several sculptures of characters from the Belfast-born’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe novel, including the White Witch, and Aslan.

If you’re full of travel inspiration, it’s time to get booking your next trip away! Once you’ve booked your flights, don’t forget to sort your airport parking. We offer deals all over the country, from Heathrow to Manchester and Edinburgh, and everywhere in between.

And, if you’re looking to travel in style, why not browse our range of airport lounge deals, so you can spend the start of your trip away in peace and quiet, instead of crowded departure terminals?

Methodology

Sources:

  • Pollution index score – https://www.numbeo.com/pollution/rankings_current.jsp
  • Google search volume – Keyword planner
  • % of green space – https://isglobalranking.org
  • of beaches – https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/
  • Total rainfall – https://www.climatestotravel.com/
  • sunshine hours – https://www.climatestotravel.com/
  • of kids’ activities – https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/
  • of couples’ activities – https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/
  • Noise pollution – https://isglobalranking.org

Methodology:

This dataset has two rankings. One that ranks 50 different cities across Europe, based on being the best low-pollution holiday destinations, and another that ranks 14 different UK cities based on the same thing. To do this, 9 different factors were used. Once the data for the factors was collected, the factors were then normalised, to provide each factor with a score between 0 and 1. The normalised values were then summed, to give each city a total score out of 9. The cities were then ranked from highest to lowest, based on their total scores. The factors used are as follows:

  • Pollution index score – An indexed score based on pollution levels in each city
  • Google search volume – The number of average monthly searches for each city
  • % of green space – The percentage of green space in each city
  • of beaches – The number of beaches in each city
  • Total rainfall – The total rainfall in a year in each city
  • sunshine hours – The average amount of hours the sun shines per day in each city
  • of kids’ activities – The number of activities good for kids in each city
  • of couples’ activities – The number of couple activities in each city
  • Noise pollution – The % of population exposed to harmful noise levels in each city

The factors were indexed as follows:

  • Pollution index score – High values get a low score. Low values get a high score.
  • Google search volume – High values get a high score. Low values get a low score.
  • % of green space – High values get a high score. Low values get a low score.
  • of beaches – High values get a high score. Low values get a low score.
  • Total rainfall – High values get a low score. Low values get a high score.
  • sunshine hours – High values get a high score. Low values get a low score.
  • of kids’ activities – High values get a high score. Low values get a low score.
  • of couples’ activities – High values get a high score. Low values get a low score.
  • Noise pollution – High values get a low score. Low values get a high score.

Any data that wasn’t available has been replaced with a ‘-‘ and given a score of 0. Data gathered is correct as of 24/02/23.