About 20 years ago, only 16% of Americans owned a passport. Nowadays, over 40% of American citizens have a passport and they take their travel seriously. Data shows that in 2016, 12 million Americans traveled to Europe. Among the top European countries visited by Americans are Italy, France, and Germany. At this time, U.S. citizens can travel to the Schengen Area for short-term stays without having to apply for a visa. But at the end of 2022, the EU will introduce ETIAS, the European Travel and Information System. Citizens with a valid U.S. passport will need to complete the ETIAS application online with their personal details.
The European Union decided in 2016 that it was necessary to have an electronic program that would help determine the eligibility of foreign travelers to the region. One of the reasons behind the EU’s ETIAS is security. Millions of people arrive in Europe every day, and currently, citizens of 62 countries are exempt from applying for a visa to the Schengen Zone. It is essential for the EU to protect the region’s external borders. After facing several terrorist attacks and an immigration crisis, ETIAS would help identify individuals that could pose a threat to Schengen member countries.
What Are the Top European Countries Visited by Americans?
There are many reasons why Europe is an attractive tourist destination for American travelers. Europe allures visitors with its intricate history, art, and nature. Thanks to the Schengen Agreement, 26 European countries (that are also ETIAS countries) eliminated their internal borders promoting the free movement of people and goods. Low-cost airlines, buses, and well-connected trains make it easier for foreign tourists to explore the old continent. Travelers can also rent a car and do that road trip they’ve always dreamt off.
When ETIAS becomes available in late 2022, U.S. citizens will be able to travel to any country in the Schengen Area. Among them, there are some of the most popular countries visited by Americans. Read further to find out about the countries that draw in millions of Americans each year and think about planning your trip to Europe.
Top Countries to Visit in Europe
In 2016 alone over 50 million tourists arrived in Italy, and 2.2 million were U.S. citizens. There are plenty of reasons to visit Italy, starting with all of the Roman ruins that can be found throughout the country. Many visitors are drawn to Rome or Pompeii to learn about its history and admire its impressive architectonical heritage. Venice is a wonderful city, especially during its famous carnival or while hosting its film festival. Travelers head to Tuscany to enjoy food, wine, and pleasant weather. Fashion addicts arrive in Milan to stay up to date with the latest trends. More cities worth discovering include Florence, Naples, Sorrento, and Bologna. To get to know the best of Italy, U.S. citizens will need to get their ETIAS travel authorization before traveling to the country.
Over 2 million foreign visitors arrived in France in 2016. France is one of the most visited countries in the world, not just Europe. Among the best places to see in France include its capital city, Paris. There’s much to do and see in Paris, from heading to the main landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre museum to having a cup of coffee and a croissant at a corner café. But France offers plenty of surprises, from the southern region that is filled with charming villages and wineries to the trendy Marseille. Other cities worth exploring in France include Lyon, Nice, and Bordeaux. As one of the countries in the ETIAS system, U.S. citizens will need to get their ETIAS visa waiver to visit the country.
Germany has established itself as a great travel destination. From offering river cruises on the Rhine and Maine rivers to Oktoberfest to the dance music culture in Berlin. There’s something to do for every type of traveler. Germany is also one top destination for many Americans, which hosted 1.9 million US travelers in 2016. Among many of the reasons to visit Germany, the cities of Hamburg, Munich, and Cologne are a must. The country is ideal to visit castles or enjoy a getaway in the Bavarian Alps. Besides the lively and one-of-a-kind Oktoberfest, Germany is home to the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth and the Berlin Film Festival. Germany was one of the founding countries of the Schengen Agreement, you will need a valid ETIAS authorization to visit this fascinating nation.
In 2017, Spain welcomed 81.8 million tourists. It’s a country that attracts visitors from all corners of the globe and with good reason. Barcelona is a hub for creatives and tech-savvy individuals, thanks to its great beaches, cultural scene, and amazing weather. Madrid, the capital, is ideal to visit museums, go to the theater and eat and drink all day. Besides, Spain has several islands that are the perfect escape. Mallorca, Ibiza, and Menorca await. Let’s not forget about the Canary Islands either, often crowded by northern Europeans, they are home to natural wonders. The Andalucian region is famous for its hospitality and beautiful beaches. At this time, U.S. citizens can travel to see the best of Spain without a visa, but from the end of 2022 it will be necessary to have an ETIAS authorization.