Paris, Munich, Vienna….Europe’s most famous and travelled-to cities are magical, but there’s so much more to Europe than the major tourist cities. When we go overseas, we can often overlook the roads less travelled. Not anymore! These underrated European destinations are just begging for you to pay them a visit.
As a holiday destination Portugal is often overlooked for its neighbour of Spain. Those who do venture to Portuguese shores tend to head straight to Lisbon. All the better for you, because once you arrive in Porto we can guarantee that you won’t want to share it with anyone. It’s smaller and more intimate than Lisbon, but has all of the charm you’d expect from a relaxed, Mediterranean city on a riverfront. Things are done slowly here, and the little joys in life are savoured; whether it’s a glass of port on one of the ramshackle rooftop bars, a coffee with great friends, or freshly caught seafood along the river banks. One can’t-miss attraction is a visit to the Douro wine region, where port wine is produced.
Forget Croatia’s coastal regions and head to the capital city of Zagreb, which is further north and inland. The neo-gothic architecture, pedestrian-only Old Town and winding narrow alleyways is reminiscent of Prague, but it comes at a fraction of the price. Here, you can explore crumbling cathedrals and pop in and out of hole-in-the-wall bars and restaurants, sample traditional Croatian street food and gorge yourself on delicacies like truffle oils all while sipping delicious Croatian red wine without breaking the bank. You’ll likely fly into Zagreb when visiting Croatia so instead of moving on to your next destination, give the city a few days and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It’s small, walkable, and gorgeous – plus the Plitvice Lakes are a mere two hours away and the trip is worth it for them alone. If you’re there over December you’re in for a real treat as Zagreb’s Christmas Market has been voted the best in Europe three years running.
Bucharest is sometimes referred to as ‘little Paris’ and in part, it’s easy to see why. There are wide Parisienne-style avenues with tree-lined walkways and a very chic and cosmopolitan feel. Bucharest even has its very own Arc de Triomph! Given Romania’s cultural influences from a mix of places and people though, there’s much more to Bucharest than just a French feel. With Soviet and Moorish influences obvious everywhere, Bucharest is one of those cities with stark contrasts everywhere. There are beautiful pockets of well-preserved Old Town as well as glitzy modern buildings and hotels. There are evident reminders of the country’s sombre Communist past, but also incredible history to be found. And, of course, there’s Dracula’s home in Transylvania, only a short trip away.
Perhaps not technically Europe, but Scotland’s capital city very rarely gets the attention it deserves. Edinburgh is a gorgeous city complete with medieval buildings, towering church spires, cobblestoned streets and an atmosphere that’s always warm and welcoming. It’s the sort of place that makes you think of whiskey and fires, dragons and castles, and a sense of contentment. A visit to Edinburgh Castle is a trip never to be forgotten, and many tourists get a kick out of seeing the multiple Harry Potter filming sites. Plus, it’s the world’s leading festival city so who knows what you might get to see while you’re there!
Bologna is a University town and transport hub in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy. While most visitors opt for Rome, Venice, and Florence instead, Bologna has a plethora of rewards for those who choose to stop by. One of the country’s foremost food regions, it’s home to an incredible culinary scene which is more affordable and far more relaxed than you might find in some of the better-known cities. As you might have guessed, Bologna is home to the world’s most loved Italian pasta dish of spaghetti Bolognese. You’ll find courtyards where restaurants share the outdoor seating areas (at no charge to sit down, which is unusual for Italy!), gourmet cheeses, fresh fruits, pasta and pizza of dreams and gelato and wine to satisfy the pickiest of people. On the off chance that you’ve had enough to eat and drink, you can keep yourself busy by walking the streets and admiring the grand University buildings, centuries-old churches, red terracotta rooftop tiles, the pretty rows of Porticoes and the city’s very own leaning tower. Move aside, Pisa!