Most city getaways predictably involve visiting a single country, but border towns are a unique exception — allowing travelers to easily step foot into two different countries on the same visit. Thanks to their locations along territorial lines, these cities offer a fascinating mix of culture and history found in few places around the globe. From the only national capital in the world to border two foreign countries to the glitz and glamor of the French Riviera, explore six captivating European border cities and all they have to offer.
Nestled along the Danube River and surrounded by the Little Carpathian Mountains, Bratislava is the only national capital in the world to border two sovereign countries. The Slovakian capital borders Austria to the west and Hungary to the south. In addition to serving as the political and economic epicenter of its country, the city happens to be a postcard-perfect depiction of old-world Europe — filled with charming cafes, historic architecture, and a pristine hilltop castle (plus, it’s located near plenty of vineyards). Soak up 18th-century vibes with a stop at Primate’s Palace, an ornate dwelling filled with tapestries and period pieces, and check out Michael’s Gate, the only remaining section from the city’s 14th-century fortified walls.
Monaco City, Monaco
This glitzy coastal city is situated in the south-central ward in the Principality of Monaco, the world’s second-smallest country. The city-state is nicknamed the “Billionaire’s Playground,” thanks to its high concentration of wealth (almost one in three people who live there is a millionaire) and the elite institutions hosted there, such as the Monaco Grand Prix, the Monaco Yacht Show, and the Casino de Monte Carlo. Monaco City (or Monaco-Ville, as locals often refer to it) is the oldest of the four quarters of the city-state, and is where the royal family lives.
The area is often called “The Rock” for its placement on Le Rocher, an elevated headland that projects into the Mediterranean Sea, which adds epic views to this already majestic site. And when you’re ready to cross over into France, there’s even more to explore along the French Riviera — from the hilltop commune of Èze to the promenades of Nice and the vineyards of nearby Provence.
Expect extraordinary views (and plenty of chocolate, bien sur) in this Swiss city, which sits on Lac Léman and is surrounded by the Alps and Jura Mountains. Though a bit farther from the border than other cities on this list, Geneva is still within a 30-minute drive to France’s central-eastern region. That makes for easy trips to culinary hotspots like Lyon or Dijon, though with all of the excitement happening on the Swiss side of the border — from Mont Blanc cable car rides to everyday affairs of the United Nations or Red Cross headquarters — you may decide to stay put.
The third-largest city in Sweden after Stockholm and Gothenburg, Malmö is located in the country’s Skåne province and known for its peaceful parks, waterfront, and cycling paths. (It’s no wonder the city ranked as Sweden’s happiest town.) There’s plenty to do in this charming city, but Malmö is also home to the Øresend, a bridge built in 2000 that connects it to Copenhagen, the Danish capital, in just 20 minutes. (Many residents actually live in one city and work in the other.) For visitors, that’s all good news when faced with decisions of where to shop, eat, and sight-see — both cities are spoiled with options.
Kerkrade, The Netherlands
Found in the southeast of Limburg, the southernmost region of the Netherlands, Kerkrade is situated alongside Germany’s western border. For centuries, the city served as a vital coal-mining hub, which changed in the 1970s when the mines were closed. Today, the city has plenty of appeal for travelers — especially when it comes to entertainment. Festivals like the World Wind Music Contest and Orlando Festival have put the destination on the map for concertgoers, while other sites — such as the 13th-century Castle Erenstein, zoos including the GaiaZOO and Safaripark Beekse Bergen, a fascinating museum called the Discovery Center Continium, and the Parkstad Limburg Football Stadium — prove there’s a little something for everyone here.
The capital of the region formerly known as Alsace, Strasbourg showcases a marriage of German and French influences, from its architecture to its culture (and, of course, delicious food and wine). Visit the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, once recognized as the tallest building in the world, and ascend its tower for show-stopping views of the city and surrounding Rhine River and Black Forest. There’s perhaps no better time to visit than the holidays, when the town transforms itself into the “Capital of Christmas” — thanks to one of Germany’s most popular outdoor holiday markets, featuring more than 300 stalls across the city center.