Going for Growth

Want more for your money? Here's your next vacation

Chalermkiat Seedokmai | Moment | Getty Images

Fine dining, ancient buildings, world class galleries and sun-kissed beaches. As a tourist destination, Europe has it all.

Tourism is a vital part of the European Union's economy, generating more than 10 percent of the region's gross domestic product and employing 9.7 million people across 1.8 million businesses, according to the European Commission. And with a weak euro, it's never been a better time to visit the 19 countries that use the single currency.

In this slideshow, CNBC looks at mainland Europe's 10 most popular tourist destinations in 2014 based on the number of nights spent in tourist accommodation over 10 months. The figures come from Eurostat, the European Commission's statistical body.

-By CNBC's Anmar Frangoul on Thursday April 30, 2015.


Joe Daniel Price | Moment | Getty Images

Nights spent in tourist accommodation: 53 million

With a spectacular coastline and a low cost of living, Portugal is one of Europe's top tourist destinations.

The Portuguese economy has been hit hard in the euro zone's economic crisis, but tourism has played a key role in keeping the country afloat: Travel and tourism contributed 322,000 jobs to the Portuguese economy in 2013 and accounted for 15.6 percent of GDP, or 25.6 billion euros, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).


Doug Pearson | AWL Images | Getty Images

Nights spent in tourist accommodation: 66 million

From the ancient city of Dubrovnik – used as a location for HBO's "Game of Thrones" series – to the stunning Dalmatian Coast and the Roman palace of Diocletian in Split, the European Union's newest member has always been a tourist draw.

In 2013, tourism and travel accounted for 27.8 percent of Croatia's GDP and 29.9 percent of employment, or 311,500 jobs, according to the WTTC.


Luis Davilla | age fotostock | Getty Images

Nights spent in tourist accommodation: 67 million

Poland's capital, Warsaw, has been described as one of Europe's liveliest and most historic cities.

Destroyed by the Nazis during World War II, the city is in the midst of a renaissance, with its historic center now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Tourism contributed 6.4 percent to Polish GDP in 2013, with tourists spending roughly $76 per day, according to the country's Department of Tourism.


Alex Bramwell | Moment | Getty Images

Nights spent in tourist accommodation: 98 million

Although gripped by political and economic crises, Greece remains a very popular tourist destination with stunning islands, scorching summers and ancient ruins— the country is home to 17 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

In 2013, the travel and tourism industry accounted for over 650,000 jobs - 18.2 percent of total employment in Greece - according to the WTTC. The body sees the industry being worth 41.8 billion by 2024.


Jaap Hart | E+ | Getty Images

Nights spent in tourist accommodation: 101 million

For many the city of Amsterdam, with its beer, red light district and liberal laws on soft drugs, is the party capital of Europe.

Yet the Netherlands – birthplace of great artists such as Rembrandt and Van Gogh – has much more to offer: great countryside with windmills, canals, multi-colored fields of tulips and some of the continent's most impressive art galleries.

Tourists contributed 65 billion euros to the Dutch economy in 2013, when 12.8 million people visited the country, according to Statistics Netherlands.


Julia Schröder | EyeEm | Getty Images

Nights spent in tourist accommodation: 110 million

Bordering Germany to the west and Hungary to the east, Austria is famed for the ballrooms of Vienna and the mountains of Tirol that make it a popular ski destination with Europeans.

In 2013, tourism and travel contributed 42 billion euros to Austrian GDP, according to the WTTC, with this figure seen rising to 59.9 billion euros – or 16 percent of GDP – by 2024.


Brian Lawrence | Photographer's Choice | Getty Images

Nights spent in tourist accommodation: 366 million

Europe's largest economy, Germany, has some of the continent's most impressive mountains, lakes and museums, as well as picturesque Christmas markets.

The capital of Berlin, home of the Brandenburg Gate and Berlin Wall, was the country's most popular city for visitors in 2013, with more than 11.5 million overnight stays by foreigners, according official German statistics.

German investment in travel and tourism stood at 20.2 billion euro in 2013, with the industry representing 129.9 billion euros or nearly five percent of total GDP.


Buena Vista Images | Digital Vision | Getty Images

Nights spent in tourist accommodation: 370 million

Those looking for la dolce vita can't go wrong with a trip to Italy. A cradle of European civilization, the Italian way of life has beguiled travelers – perhaps most notably the English poets Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats – for centuries.

Tourists in the country are spoiled for choice. Culture vultures need look no further than the "eternal city" of Rome, home to the Ancient Roman Coliseum and the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, while Venice is as romantic as it is architecturally stunning. And the world famous pizzas and gelato of Naples—a popular stopping off point for Mediterranean cruise ships—offer travelers a rough-edged slice of Italian life.

Every year, foreign travelers spend over 30 billion euros ($33 billion) in Italy, with tourism providing around one-third of the country's GDP and more than one million jobs, according to Italy's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.


Image Source | Image Source | Getty Images

Nights spent in tourist accommodation: 401 million

The land of tapas, jamón and bullfighting, Spain is an iconic destination for travelers from around the world.

While Madrid's wild nightlife doesn't get going until 11 p.m., travelers looking for a more sedate experience can head north to the deep green hills and mountains of Asturias and Cantabria, while sun worshipers can relax on the playas of Andalusia's Costa del Sol.

Tourism is crucial to the Spanish economy, which was hit hard by the euro zone debt crisis of 2010.

In 2014, Spain's tourism sector grew by 2.9 percent, according to Exceltur, a group that represents the Spanish tourism industry. This rate was twice as fast as Spain's overall GDP growth of 1.4 percent.


Camille Moirenc | hemis.fr | Getty Images

Nights spent in tourist accommodation: 403 million

From romantic Paris to the fields of lavender and sunflowers in sunny Provence, France is home to some of the world's finest art galleries, cuisine, fashion and scenery.

Travel and tourism provided 1.2 million jobs and contributed 194.6 billion to the French economy in 2013, according to the WTTC.