Yes, Paris is romantic and the architecture in Barcelona will blow your mind. But before you cast off the rest of Europe in favor of the major stops, consider the lesser traveled places. Imagine being one of the few tourists in an entire city, discovering a destination few have heard of, never mind visited.
Europe bubbles over with enticing cities, and its most famous ones will always be there. But NOW is the time to check out these unheard of cities before they are inevitably discovered by the masses.
Below is all the insider information you’ll need to visit 10 of Europe’s most beautiful cities that aren’t part of the usual tourist track:
Don’t let the fear of mispronouncing the city’s name deter you from visiting this Eastern European capital. Slovenia’s largest city is surprisingly walkable thanks to the pedestrian-friendly city center. The area lining the Ljubljana River is arguably the most charming. The endless row of gorgeous homes packed closely together and a generous spattering of cafes with outdoor seating will entice even the most rambunctious traveler to post up and take a load off. Don’t forget to make the steep trek to Ljubljana Castle for a worthy view of the whole city.
History, culture and a pulsing nightlife. It’s too easy to have a good time in Tallinn. By day, you can enjoy Tallinn’s remarkable history. Walk amongst centuries-old buildings in the Estonian Open-Air Museum, peruse the city’s impressive art collection at Kumu and market shop and people watch in the Old Town’s Town Hall Square, the beating heart of the city since the 11th century.
When darkness falls, treat yourself to a gourmet meal at Rataskaevu 16 before getting your groove on in one of the city’s known nightclubs or lounges.
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
Some people haven’t even heard of the country of Luxemburg, never mind its tiny capital, Luxembourg City. Sandwiched between France, Belgium and Germany, Luxembourg is an ideal destination for those who enjoy the great outdoors and natural scenery.
Cross the old stone bridges in Old Town, crawl through the 18th-century stone tunnels known as the Bock Casemates, and make an imperative stop at the Grand Ducal Palace - the current place of residence of the Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
This university city offers a young vibe with a real sense of community. Located on the cusp of the Black Forest, Freiburg im Breisgau places heavy emphasis on sustainability, priding itself on being one of Germany’s greenest cities.
And talk about pretty. One of the most celebrated churches in the world sits atop the brightly-colored and completely irresistible Munsterplatz Square. Around every corner of this adorable town is more charming architecture, cobblestone streets and picturesque squares. It’s so cute we can hardly take it.
The hometown of the world’s most revered children’s book author, Hans Christian Andersen, is the stunningly picturesque city on the large Danish island of Funen. Fans of the author can visit his childhood home as well as a museum displaying some of his personal items, manuscripts and drawings. We’re guessing Mr. Andersen drew much of his inspirations from real-life. Odense’s Egeskov Castle literally looks like it was pulled from the pages of a fairy tale.
Additionally, cultural and history buffs will love strolling around the Den Fynske Landsby, an open-air museum of transplanted historic buildings from around the island. Not to mention, the Old Town Quarter’s curved streets and medieval homes make a more-than-worthy Instagram snap.
A true Swedish maritime town, Gothenburg was thrown up in the 17th-century in a planned attempt to become the largest port in the country. Due to its stellar maritime location and the strong work ethic of its famous shipbuilders, Gothenburg was a success. Traces of its humble beginnings and working-class roots can be found throughout the present-day town.
Grab your morning coffee in Haga, a formerly slummy-neighborhood-turned-whimsical-historic district. Then, mosey onward to Feskekorka, the fish market housed inside a 19th-century wonder.
An absolute must-do while in town is a Paddan Tour. A paddan is a low boat designed for maneuvering through the 17th-century canals, touring the historic shipyards and passing under low bridges. This is the best way to see the ins and outs of the city.
Sitting on France’s northern border, Strasbourg is an eclectic mash-up of both French and German culture, architecture and cuisine. It’s also the official seat of the European Parliament, so it boasts plenty of clout.
Wandering around the smooth cobblestone streets lined with 16th-century houses in Le Petite France will surely win you over. And if you need more convincing there’s always the food, which jumps back and forth between things like German sausages with sauerkraut and tarte flambee, a French specialty.
People are slowly starting to stand up and take notice of Poland as a rewarding travel destination. Gdansk is particularly beautiful.
Located on the Baltic Sea, this northern coastal city is Poland’s primary seaport. The Old Town teems with unbelievable historical sites like The Royal Way - a path once paraded by kings - leading from the old city gates to the Motlawa River. Look up and around you as explore this district; it’s also full of restored 14th-century homes and buildings with ornate roof detailing.
Cesky Krumlov, Czechia
Most have heard the seductive stories of Prague, the ever-popular Czechian capital. But who’s heard of Cesky Krumlov? It’s actually just a quick 2 ½-hour jaunt south of Prague, and it’s totally worth an overnight trip.
The 14th-century city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Crisscrossed with winding alleyways and concentrated with churches, monasteries, art galleries, museums and the dominating Cesky Krumlov Castle, the whole day could - and should - be spent discovering this area.
Maastricht, The Netherlands
This southern Dutch city draws influence from home as well as neighboring Belgium and Germany, creating a diverse culture, history and culinary scene. Made up of eight distinct neighborhoods, you’ll never run out of places to explore.
Visit just before Lent and take advantage of the massive, week-long carnival festival going on in Vrijthof Square. For a great city view and some quality ancient-ruin-wander-round time, head to the Lichtenberg Castle.
Some iconic photo locations include Hell’s Gate, part of the original 13th-century city walls and the underground military fortresses known as Casemates. For a change of scenery, stop by the Wyck district for modern-day shops built atop the aged cobblestone streets.