With picturesque scenery and peace and tranquillity guaranteed, Europe’s lake resorts are some of the most sought after in the world.
From a mix of our personal all-time favourites as well as feedback gathered from our travel community, here is our collection of the best and most beautiful lakes to visit in Europe (in no particular order)…
1. Lake Annecy, France – one of the most stunning lake resorts in Europe
A favourite lake of many European visitors, Lake Annecy which is fed by mountain springs and known for its clean water has pretty much has everything you would want from a lake resort – idyllic mountain scenery, fresh alpine air, icy blue waters, and plenty of gorgeous towns and villages to explore.
Located in the Haute-Savoie in France, near both Switzerland and Italy, it makes a great base to explore the rest of the beautiful Savoie region.
Stay in the picturesque alpine town of Annecy home to cobbled streets lined with alfresco bars, cafes and restaurants, pretty winding canals, and charming pastel-colored houses.
Also visit nearby Mont Blanc, the mountain commune Chamonix, the town of Evian, and the medieval villages of Yvoire and Geneva.
The beautiful Lake Annecy Resort in 4k…
2. Lake Geneva, France and Switzerland – one of the best and most popular lakes to visit in Europe
Not far from Lake Annecy is easily one of the most famous lakes in Europe – Lake Geneva, it’s also one of the largest lakes on the continent-spanning both France and Switzerland.
Nestled below the beautiful Alps mountain range, the glacial lake is known for its icy blue waters, its striking crescent shape, and the many attractive villages, castles, and towns surrounding its shores.
Once in the area it’s also worth visiting medieval Yvoire a member of the ‘Association of the Most Beautiful Villages of France‘ or Château de Chillon a fairytale-like castle which overlooks the lake. Also, check out our other best spots to visit in Switzerland.
3. Lake Garda, Italy – the famously beautiful North Italian lake flanked with impossibly pretty communes
Lake Garda is definitely up there as one of the romantic destinations in Europe, if not the world. Where can you go wrong with a beautiful mountain lake flanked by impossibly gorgeous villages?
Each of the lake-side communities are very different from the next and range from a historic town dominated by a medieval castle to a picturesque village brimming with flowers and pastel-coloured houses. See our other post on the best places to visit in Italy.
4. Lake Ohrid, Macedonia – one of Europe’s best-kept secrets
One of the world’s oldest lakes also happens to be one of the most beautiful. Straddling the border between the southwestern part of North Macedonia and eastern Albania the beautiful lake (which is also the deepest in the Balkans) enjoys a prestigious location framed by majestic mountains and hills and overlooked by the highly photogenic Saint John the Theologian Macedonian Orthodox church.
The nearby small resort city of Ohrid is equally as pretty and worth exploring. It’s home to an atmospheric old quarter lined with cobblestone streets and dotted with medieval churches, monasteries, historic ruins, and traditional red-tiled roofs houses.
5. Lake Como, Italy – the prestigious lake resort and A-lister hang out
There’s just something about those North Italian lakes and Lake Como is arguably the most beautiful of them all. The very elegant resort (and George Clooney’s favourite European hangout) lies in the shadow of the Rhaetian Alps and its shoreline is scattered with pretty villages.
Make sure you visit the world-famous Bellagio, a very attractive traditional town and the central hub of the resort’s tourism.
6. Lake Wastwater, Lake District, England – one of the most beautiful lakes in England
England’s largest national park is home to a large number of beautiful lakes. Wastwater lake – the most remote lake – was once voted Britain’s favourite view.
It’s hemmed in by some of the highest peaks in England and surrounded by some of the Lake District’s most impressive scenery and is easily worth the extra effort to get to.
7. Sognefjord, Norway – named by National Geographic as the world’s most iconic destination
Norway is home to a huge number of spectacular fjords and there are four fjord regions in Western Norway; Møre & Romsdal, Sogn & Fjordane, Hordaland, and Rogaland.
The largest and most beautiful fjord is Sognefjord, the third-longest in the world.
Also, head for Nærøyfjord, a branch of the Sognefjord particularly noted for its unspoiled nature and dramatic scenery which is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
8. Loch Duich, Scotland – a beautiful sea loch flanked by one of the world’s most photographed castle
There are many beautiful lochs in the Highlands – Scotland is famous for them, but we’ve chosen this one for its iconic views.
This sea loch situated on the western coast of Scotland is dominated by the hauntingly beautiful Eilean Donan Castle – a familiar 13th-century structure that adorns postcards, calendars, and once even a BBC advert.
9. Lake Bled, Slovenia – one of the most picturesque spots in Europe
This small and very picturesque glacial lake can be found in the Julien Alps in Northwestern Slovenia.
Increasingly popular with visitors in the know, its main attraction is Bled Island, a tiny forested circle that’s home to the 17th-century Church of the Assumption and its prominent baroque clock tower.
10. Lakes of Killarney, Ireland – one of the most famous beauty spots in Europe
Ireland is known for its wild and rugged landscapes but if you want to find some of the country’s most beautiful scenery head for the Lakes of Killarney.
It is a renowned scenic attraction which consists of three lakes – Lough Leane, Muckross Lake, and Upper Lake.
History fans will also be kept busy with the surrounding Ross Castle, Muckross Abbey, and Muckross House. Also, check out our other post on the most interesting places to visit in Ireland.
11. Lake Lucerne, Switzerland – a very popular and beautiful lake surrounded by towering peaks
Located in central Switzerland and encircled by gorgeous mountains and Alpine towns, Lake Lucerne is said to be reminiscent of Norway’s fjords but with a milder climate!
Also, explore Lucerne city itself (located on the lake shores). The old town is filled with historic buildings, painted facades, and narrow cobbled streets lined with shops selling traditional Swiss goods.
12. Plitvice Lakes, Croatia – Croatia’s most popular tourist attraction
Plitvice Lakes National Park is the oldest national park in Southeast Europe. Known throughout Europe for its extraordinary unspoiled beauty, its woody hills are home to sixteen turquoise lakes that are connected by waterfalls and cascades.
Wildlife fans will also be in their element here, it’s one of the few places in Europe where bears and wolves still roam. Also expect to see deer, wild boar, and a huge variety of birds.
13. Lake Hallstatt, Austria – the famously beautiful postcard-pretty lake
A UNESCO world heritage site, this beautiful Austrian lake enjoys a relaxed atmosphere – very far from the madding crowds. Surrounded by huge mountains, Lake Hallstatt is located at the heart of the Salzkammergut region and was once where Celtic tribes settled some 4000 years ago.
Today it’s an extremely photogenic place with mirrored waters surrounded by steep cliffs and typically attractive Austrian villages.
- We also have an article on the 20 Of The Most Beautiful Places To Visit In Austria
14. Konigsee Lake, Germany – a sparkling emerald green lake in Bavaria’s Berchtesgaden National Park
Located in the southeastern portion of Germany and on the border of Austria, is the beautiful Lake Königssee – Germany’s deepest and cleanest lake.
This area has been used for outdoor recreation for centuries – both Bavarian royalty and the local rulers of Berchtesgaden and Salzburg once hunted here.
In keeping with its pure and natural surroundings only electric-powered passenger ships, rowing, and pedal boats have been permitted on the lake since 1909. You may also like our best spots to visit in Germany.
15. Lake Vyrnwy, Wales – one of the most photogenic lakes in the UK
There are many beautiful places to visit in Wales and gorgeous lakes in this part of the United Kingdom but Lake Vyrnwy is often said to be one of the most picturesque.
It’s actually a man-made reservoir in Powys Mid Wales that was built to keep supply Liverpool with fresh water but it flooded the head of the Vyrnwy valley and submerged the Welsh village of Llanwddyn in the 1880s.
Today people visit not only for the stunning scenery but also to bird watch, cycle and hike the 12 miles around the lake and take in the beautiful surrounding mountains and ancient woodlands.
Don’t miss the iconic neo-Gothic water tower which overlooks the vast expanse of clear blue water and cuts a very striking and photogenic image.
16. Lake Zurich, Switzerland – a beautiful Swiss lake which makes a great base for summer fun
There are many great things to do in Zurich, the pretty and affluent city northern Switzerland, but making the most of the stunning Lake Zurich is easily one of the best.
It’s a lovely place to visit all year round but in the summer the place really comes alive with a buzz around and on the lake which is something unlike I’ve ever experienced before.
The locals seem to love the mix of the traditional and the quirky here and the city is all the better for it; go for a beer in the delightful Old Town, hire an amphibious Cadillac for a fun way to mess around on the lake, take a swim in one of their lidos and when evening falls sup on cocktails in one of the famous ‘Badi Bars’ which are actually lidos turned into stunning lake-side drinking holes – a wonderful way to experience Swizterland!
17. Lake Wolfgangsee, Austria – one of the most popular lake resorts in a very scenic part of Europe
Located in the very scenic Salzkammergut resort region – a place that many visitors are drawn to – this is the most loved and most famous of all the lakes in the area.
It lies mostly within the state of Salzburg so it also makes a great add-on when visiting the city of Salzburg in Upper Austria.
There are many places you can stay around the beautiful lake including Strobl, St. Gilgen (the birthplace of Mozart‘s mother), the villages of Abersee and Ried and the market town of St. Wolfgang.
This beautiful European Lake has charmed many artists, poets, and couples over the centuries, and once visited you’ll see why!
18. Hintersee Lake, Germany – a gorgeous alpine lake with stunningly clear waters
This gorgeous Emerald Green lake is located in Southern Germany very near the border in Austria. Its beauty is famous throughout the continent, has beguiled many artists and poets and many agree it’s one of the best lakes in Europe.
Its surroundings are equally as stunning and the 16-hectare lake is flanked by towering gigantic peaks and ancient forests. Here you can go hiking or cycling along the mountain path or hire a boat to really immerse yourself in its tranquillity.
Head to the banks of the mountain torrent at Malerwinkl otherwise known as painters’ corner for the world-famous view of the pretty church of Ramsau.
19. Lake Saimaa, Finland – one of the largest and most beautiful lakes in Europe
Covering a huge area of 4,400 square km, Lake Saimaa is the fourth largest lake in Europe. It’s also one of the most beautiful.
One of the most scenic sights in Finland, most of the lake is dotted with 14,000 small islands of different shapes, making it look like a watery labyrinth.
Scandinavians are known for their love of the outdoors and there’s no shortage of actives available in this European Lake resort from cycling, canoeing, and hiking in the summer to cross-country skiing and snowshoe walking in the winter. You may also like our other post on the most beautiful places to visit in Finland.
20. Kerid Crater Lake, Iceland – a surreally beautiful volcanic crater lake
Iceland is famous for its crater lakes, but one of the most visited and attractive is Kerid – a volcanic crater lake located in the Grímsnes area in south Iceland.
Like many of Iceland’s attractions, it’s a pretty surreal sight; the pool has a brilliant aquamarine colour and the surrounding steep barren walls give it an almost lunar-esque feel.
It’s a popular place to visit in Iceland as it can be included as the first stop on a tour of the famous Golden Circle route.
Becky Moore – Owner, writer and photographer
My first true adventure began as a six month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh faced backpacker and ever since I’ve lived a semi nomadic existence, clocking up visits to over 40 countries. I’m a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds and all things Scandinavian – from cloudberry liquors to Nordic noirs. When not wandering the world and running Global Grasshopper, you’ll find me walking my ex Athens street dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Lanes on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about my favourite places; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Borneo, Finland, Greece, Berlin, Laos, California and the surreal and beautiful landscapes of a wintry Iceland.
I’ve been quoted in Forbes, National Geographic, The Times, Yahoo Travel, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Thrillist, British Airways Magazine, Entrepreneur, express.co.uk, Wanderlust, Telegraph Travel, Daily Mail and metro.co.uk. Find me on Linkedin or Facebook.