Best Green Capitals in Europe

This article is in partnership with Day Translations.

Inspired by an article by European Best Destinations, I thought that it would be interesting to find out which locations in Europe are best suited for those who appreciate the great outdoors and low pollution while working and travelling abroad.

The article mentioned above selected these European cities for their green spaces and variety of outdoor activities:

  • Ljubljana in Slovenia,
  • Helsinki and Lahti in Finland,
  • Bern in Switzerland,
  • Grenoble and Paris in France,
  • Stockholm in Sweden,
  • Copenhagen in Denmark,
  • Nijmegen and Amsterdam in the Netherlands,
  • Tallinn in Estonia,
  • Oslo in Norway,
  • Berlin in Germany,
  • Budapest in Hungary,
  • Vienna in Austria,
  • Madrid in Spain,
  • Prague in Czechia,
  • Brussels in Belgium.

The criteria to highlight these cities as green capitals included the access to parks and the reliance on public transport to commute instead of using private cars. For example, Madrid is taken as an example for great public transport and for its own urban green space, the Retiro Park.

Oslo is also a great example of a green capital with its own woodland called Marka Forest.

The European Commission’s Awards for European Green Capital and European Green Leaf

A more formal way to assess the green credentials of European cities is via the awards set up by the European Commission. These awards support the efforts of cities in Europe together with their communities for a greener and more sustainable future.

Each year the European Commission chooses one city in Europe with more than 100,000 people as the European Green Capital. Recently, Tallinn in Estonia was chosen in 2023, Valencia in Spain was chosen in 2024 and Vilnius in Lithuania for 2025.

For example, Valencia was chosen as the winning city in 2024 as a European Green Capital thanks to its commitment to sustainable tourism, climate neutrality and green transition.

These choices were based on the commitment for sustainability, climate neutrality and the protection of natural environments. This commitment expands to improving air quality, producing more organic food and protecting the local wildlife. The city also looks to the future, aiming to create a welcoming environment for future generations and to help shape policies at European level.

It’s worth noting that Valencia was the first Mediterranean location to be receiving this award.

Previous choices have included:

  • Grenoble in France in 2022,
  • Lahti in Finland in 2021,
  • Lisbon in Portugal in 2020,
  • Oslo in Norway in 2019,
  • Nijmegen in the Netherlands in 2018.

The European Green Leaf Award is given to smaller towns of about 20,000 people or less with a strong commitment to the environment.

For 2025 the chosen towns are Viladecans in Spain and Treviso in Italy, for 2024 they are Elsinore in Denmark and Velenje in Slovenia, in 2022 they are Valongo in Portugal and Winterswijk in the Netherlands, in 2021 they are Gabrovo in Bulgaria and Lappeenranta in Finland and in 2020 they are Limerick in Ireland and Mechelen in Belgium.

Using the 2024 European Green Leaf Capital, Elsinore, as an example, this town has shown commitment to support energy renovation and reusing rainwater.

Ultimately, showing strong green credentials for a European city can also bring economic benefits including attracting more investors, as well as health benefits such as improving the people’s quality of life.