Planning your next European vacation? Why not head away from the beaten track and swap Paris, London, or Barcelona for something different?
Europe is home to many underrated cities – but just because these cities are not the most visited, doesn’t mean they aren’t still brimming with things to see, do, and try. From winter sports in Austria and beautiful medieval sights in France to good food and drink in Germany or Wales, these 10 underrated European cities are well worth a visit.
1.) Zadar, Croatia
Croatia is itself a very underrated country, so it comes as no surprise that its cities are often overlooked as well. While Zadar is often forgotten amongst Croatia’s better-known cities, it has plenty to offer vacationers.
Situated on Croatia’s beautiful Dalmatian Coast, Zadar’s Old Town combines Roman and Venetian ruins and architecture, and is perfect for a day trip to the nearby Paklenica National Park.
2.) Bergen, Norway
Bergen is often forgotten, but this UNESCO World Heritage city is well worth a look. Nestled between seven hillsides and seven fjords, Bergen is the perfect starting place for exploring Norway’s stunning southwestern coast.
Bergen is Norway’s second biggest city, but despite its size, it has a small-town charm, with pretty little wooden houses and a quirky look to its streets. Visit some of the town’s old medieval landmarks, try its famous fish market, or take a ride up to the summit of Mount Floyen from the city’s centre.
3.) Metz, France
This ancient French city is steeped in a fascinating and turbulent history, having changed hands between sovereignties countless times through the centuries.
Filled with beautiful green space and medieval architecture, Metz boasts France’s third-tallest cathedral, famed for its enormous gothic stained glass windows. Check out the historical Musée de la Cour d’Or or the Centre Pompidou-Metz’s display of contemporary art.
4.) Dusseldorf, Germany
Dusseldorf blends old-world beauty with contemporary cool. This bustling city, located on the Rhine, has plenty to offer, from fascinating museums to exciting nightlife to great food and drink.
The Altstadt (Old Town) is often called “the longest bar in the world” thanks to the sheer amount of cafes, clubs, and bars squeezed into it. While you’re there, make sure you sample some of the city’s famous beer.
5.) Gdansk, Poland
The old port town of Gdansk is relatively unknown to vacationers, but it’s well worth a look. Sitting on the coast of the Baltic Sea, Gdansk boasts historic cathedrals, beautiful architecture, and enough little cafes and eateries to keep any tourist happy.
Check out the Royal Way, the city’s famous promenade street dedicated to Polish kings, and the gorgeous Neptune Fountain, a perfect spot for that holiday selfie.
6.) Ljubljana, Slovenia
Ljubljana is not just the prettiest city in Slovenia – it’s in the running for the most beautiful city in all of Europe.
Slovenia’s picturesque little capital is reminiscent of Prague without the hefty price tag. With the Ljubljanica River winding through the city centre and its colorful baroque architecture, this smaller city is a perfect romantic destination for couples or a great spot for lovers of history and architecture.
7.) Brasov, Romania
Horror fans are sure to love Brasov. Located in the iconic Transylvania region, Brasov is next door to Bran Castle, on which Bram Stoker famously based Dracula’s castle.
But if you’re not a fan of scary things, Brasov still has plenty to offer. With distinct gothic and medieval architecture, Brasov’s colorful old town is home to the Casa Sfatului, a history museum that will keep you occupied for hours. More of an outdoors person? Ride the cable car, or try the hiking path, up to the top of Tampa Mountain, which overlooks the city.
8.) Cardiff, Wales
Visitors to the United Kingdom often set their sights on London or Edinburgh, but the capital of Wales is also worth a visit.
Cardiff is home to dozens of historic houses and castles, including the popular Cardiff Castle. It’s also a great city for art lovers, being home to one of the world’s largest impressionist art collections. And if you’re looking for great food, look no further – as a port city, Cardiff boasts some truly exceptional seafood restaurants.
9.) Nafplio, Greece
This under-the-radar seaside city is a gorgeous sight to behold, with castles, restaurants, and incredible views galore.
Try visiting the historic Theatre of Epidaurus, built in 340 BC. This impeccably preserved old site is best-known for its acoustics – try shouting something aloud while you’re there and see for yourself. Don’t forget to visit the farmers’ market, with its wine, fresh fruit, honey, and olives – delicious!
10.) Innsbruck, Austria
While Innsbruck may not be as well-known as Vienna, it has plenty to do. This pretty city is tucked away in the Alps, known worldwide for its ski resorts.
From the historic Ambras Castle and Imperial Palace to the Bergisel Ski Jump – which has featured in both the Olympic Games and World Championships – Innsbruck is nothing if not diverse. Check out the Alpine Zoo, crystal-studded Swarovski Kristallwelten, or the Tyrolean Folk Art Museum for something a little different.
It’s well worth getting away from the crowds of tourists and checking out one of these underrated 10 European cities. With something for every taste, these cities combine old-world beauty with contemporary nightlife and activities for a vacation that’s truly something different.