1. Vatican City (0.44 km2)
Technically, the tiny walled enclave of Vatican City is not a country but a ‘sovereign city-state’ ruled by the Pope. Whatever the case, with a mere 900 residents, it’s the smallest independent state in the world, by both area and population. And half of it is a garden.
Definitely a must-see on a visit to Rome, marvel at St Peter’s Basilica, explore the Vatican Museums and get your photo taken with a Swiss Guard.
2. Monaco (1.95 km2)
The cause of many a pub quiz argument, the Principality of Monaco is a sovereign city-state surrounded by France, and the sea. It is a multiple record holder, having the highest population density in Europe (16,403.6 people per square kilometre) and the world’s lowest unemployment rate (an unbeatable 0% at last count).
Gape at the mega-yachts, lose a million at the casino, and ideally time your visit for the Monte Carlo Grand Prix. If you don’t own a yacht, you may be better off staying in Nice – it’s much cheaper.
3. San Marino (61 km2)
The tiny Republic of San Marino is the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world, founded on 3 September 301. It is an immensely popular day trip from surrounding Italy, so join the crowds climbing up to Castello della Cesta and pick up an extremely kitsch souvenir.
San Marino is perhaps best known for perennially propping up international football qualifying groups, and taking the lead against England at Wembley in 1993 after only 8.3 seconds. They lost 7-1.
4. Liechtenstein (160 km2)
Sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland, little Liechtenstein is in fact a record holder – it has the world’s lowest external debt. Other than that thrilling claim to fame, it is a (somewhat unheralded) destination for winter sports, thanks to its position in the Alps. The capital Vaduz is more popular as a tax haven than for city breaks.
5. Malta (316 km2)
The Republic of Malta is not actually an island but three islands – Malta, Gozo and Comino. Thanks to its location in the Mediterranean, south of Sicily and east of Tunisia, Malta enjoys hot summers and a clement winter climate, making it a popular year-round tourist destination. Malta also boasts some outstanding prehistoric sites such as the Ġgantija megalithic temple complex.
6. Andorra (468 km2)
Lying in the eastern Pyrenees, bordered by Spain and France, Andorra attracts millions of day-tripping tourists thanks to its tax haven status, which means cheap booze, ciggies and electronics. Those visitors staying longer than to fill their trolleys with whisky do so for the excellent winter sports and walking in the mountains.
7. Luxembourg (2,586 km2)
The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is not high on the list of European tourist hotspots, but one of its biggest draws is its fairytale, medieval castle at Vianden. The jumbled old town of the charming capital, Luxembourg City, is the ideal place to try the national dish of judd mat gaardebounen: smoked pork in a cream sauce with broad beans and potatoes.
8. Cyprus (9,251 km2)
Ayia Napa may have hogged the headlines with its hoards of badly behaved Brits, but there is so much more to Cyprus than discos, drinking and debauchery. Like scuba diving. The wreck of the Zenobia, off the port of Larnaca, is rated as one of the world’s top wreck dives. The Zenobia was a passenger ferry, which sank here on her maiden voyage in 1980.
9. Kosovo (10,887 km2)
‘Born’ in 2008, Kosovo is Europe’s newest country. The self-declared republic of nearly two million people is only partially recognised, but politics aside it is a stunning country to visit. Explore vibrant, friendly capital Pristina, with its historic mosques and many markets and cafes (and a surreal three-storey portrait of Bill Clinton), while Brezovica in the mountains offers some of the best ski terrain in the Balkans.
10. Montenegro (13,812 km2)
The small country of Montenegro packs a lot into its small area. Its Adriatic coast is dotted with pretty fishing villages, deserted coves and beaches and increasingly-visited resorts. Its mountainous interior is truly spectacular, covered with ancient forests, sprinkled with lakes and rivers and rising to snowy peaks, offering some excellent skiing in areas like Kolašin.
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