For a first trip, I think Rome or Paris would really give you the "wow" factor, but I also think that Istanbul would be an excellent choice. What about a combination of Amsterdam and Paris with a train connection - these are two of my favorite cities, and they're quite different from each other, but rather close in distance. If you could stretch that week to at least 10 days, you would really benefit. Try to avoid early summer - the most crowding is in late June/early July. (Late spring or early fall would be cheaper and far less crowded too).
I agree about Paris and Rome!
Week is really short and i'd n ot spend time even on going to 2 places but choose one + surrounds (1-2 daily trips).
Paris (Fr) + Versailles OR really Paris + Amsterdam.
Rome (It) + Florence (+ Venice optionally) OR
Vienna (Au) + Danube cruise (by ship, if summer) or combined with Bratislava (Slovac) which is very near.
It also may be Prague + Cheski Crumlov.
Barcelona alone + optionally few sites nearby.
London+ Cambrige or Oxford...
Munich (Germany) + salzburg (Austria) - connected by train perfectly
oh, God.. it's really hard to choose!
Let's say if I would looking for pure European expirience - I would choose Paris or Vienna.
well, its my personal opinion, but I dont know any place then more European then Vienna.
Paris is more intensive and more "mix" of cultures, but it's so much Europe.
p.s. i love Greece, but would not spend my single week in Europe for Athens. Turkey is not part of Europe at all.
Most of Poland (except Warsaw)
Why not Warsaw? I just love the place. It's mad with great music on a Saturday night.
Im sure Warsaw may be fun but it by no means reflects European culture. It was all rebuilt after the war.
Every country in Europe has 'culture', so which ever country or countries you visit you'll be able to experience European Culture.
It might be worth posting where you are flying into to give posters an idea of the area of Europe that you will get to first.
Good Luck with your trip.
I've done a fair few European cities (though not Rome yet...) and would recommend either Paris or Istanbul. Paris has some beautiful, iconic landmarks, lovely food and is a great city to hire and bike and just explore. Istanbul is really easy to get around on foot, again has some gorgeous buildings (blue mosque, hagia sophia) and great shopping at the grand bazaar. I think you could see either of them in 3 or 4 days then move on somewhere else, relatively nearby.
For your first trip to Europe I would surely recommend Barcelona.
As you are only having a short time to experience the beauty of Europe, you have got to see Barcelona, in my opinion the Catalan Capital has got it all. Barcelona is very multicultural, and therefore you are able to meet various kinds of people.
This city has a lot to offer you: architecture (Antonio Gaudí) cultural buildings, breathtaking mountains, peaceful parks, a variety of beaches, excellent bars and restaurants, a great nightlife and so much more!
I am staying in Barcelona myself for a while now and I love it here.
If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask me
PRAGUE!! Definitely! The Paris + A'dam is pretty good, as I've done that trip about 2-3 times, but you should read about Prague. It's really a great city with a lot of history and culture. You will meet people from around the worlds as travelers and get to know the locals. As for another city to pair it with, you could choose Berlin, which is a great Intro 101 city of Europe. You could also go south to Vienna. Because of Prague's location you could get a flight to or through (with a few day stop over) Paris, Istanbul, Rome... Right now, travel is becoming more popular in eastern europe, and you will find that it is more expensive to stay in larger cities.