Europe – A continent filled with beautiful cities, unique architecture, cultural diversity, and breathtaking landscapes. What a pity that we tend to visit always the same most popular cities in Europe. Many popular touristy places to visit in Europe are already suffering from Overtourism. So why not visit a few less touristy places instead? Europe is full of impressive, outstanding, and underrated travel destinations.
In the following, we would like to take a look at the most underrated cities in Europe, which are far less popular than London, Paris, etc. I asked 33 travel bloggers and frequent travelers about their insider tips for European cities and here are the unique results with a bunch of the most amazing and underrated European cities and places who deserve much more attention.
Author’s note: The following European destinations are sorted from north to south. The order of these underrated places to visit in Europe is therefore not a rating.
The most underrated European Cities and Places
The Archipelago of Svalbard is generally an underrated place for travelers. This goes even more for areas outside the capital of Longyearbyen.
The abandoned town of Pyramiden is just a few hours journey north of Longyearbyen. First established in 1910 as a Soviet coal mining town, Pyramiden was abandoned in late 1990s after a tragic plane crash that killed most of the town’s inhabitants.
The only way to get to Pyramiden is by joining a guided tour. You can arrange it from Longyearbyen and go on a ship. In the summertime, you can travel by ATV. A visit here is a must – you can find well-preserved abandoned structures, complete with original dried flowers and plants. You’ll also enter an eerie music room, see flaking murals and ceilings, and the northernmost bust of Lenin in the world.
The best time to visit is in April when polar bears are active. A stay in a Pyramiden hotel is highly recommended. You can stay for a night or two of solitude with Pyramiden’s six permanent human residents.
Recommended by Half of The Round the World Guys
Drøbak, established in 1838, is a beautiful small city located at the narrowest part of the Oslo Fjord. It is easily accessible from Oslo by car, bus or ferry (during warmer months, usually starts around Easter).
If you want to take the most beautiful way to get there, take the ferry—it is incredible. The ferry will make many stops along the way at picturesque locations and take about one and a half hours.
There is a lot to do here, including museums, many quaint shops, art galleries, great places to eat, and my favorite a year-around Christmas Shop – Julehuset. If you love everything about Christmas, this is a place for you. The selection is vast, and in one section of the store is Santa’s desk.
Like Santa Claus, Indiana in the United States, Drøbak is where many letters from Europe addressed to Santa Claus are sent. You will also discover that there is an official post office, in the store, where you can stamp your letters or cards with the official Christmas post stamp.
After visiting Julehuset, you may want to wander down to the Oslo Fjord, visit the town square, or walk through town and look at all the old wooden homes, many of which will have beautiful rose gardens.
Drøbak is easy to get to with lots to see and do, a perfect day out from Oslo.
Recommended by Cynthia of Blue Bag Nomads
Koster Islands, Sweden
Most people outside of Scandinavia have never even heard of Sweden’s Koster Islands, much less planned to visit the underrated archipelago. But if you’re traveling to West Sweden (perhaps pick up your new Volvo at their factory in Gothenburg) and looking for a few days of rest and relaxation, Koster is probably the most peaceful, pastoral place you could ask for. Located around 200 kilometers north of Gothenburg, very close to the Norway border, these volcanic islands are most popular as a vacation destination for locals. No cars are allowed on the tranquil islands, which you can reach by taking one of the 16 daily ferries over from the town of Strömstad. North Koster (4 square km) and South Koster (8 square km) are the two largest islands and are divided by a picturesque sound. The best way to explore South Koster (which is locally known as Sydkoster) is via bicycle, with several local companies offering bike rentals and guided cycling tours. Before you begin, take a quick hike to the summit of the island’s tallest hill, Valfjäll. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view of orange-roofed villages, a historic church that was constructed in 1939, and Denmark and Norway in the distance. You can also see the Koster Fjord, part of the Kosterhavet National Park marine sanctuary. It’s a great place for snorkeling in summer months or taking boat tours to see Seals and some 6,000 other marine species.As you explore the island’s quaint countryside, you’ll see beautiful farm pastures speckled with wildflowers, occasional grazing deer, and lots of cows, sheep, and horses. Don’t miss the tiny fishing village, where a line of colorful boathouses stood out against a foreboding sky. Here you’ll see fishing boats, crab traps, and an ingenious wooden ”lobster hotel,” all visual reminders that these islands are home to some of the world’s best seafood. Before you leave the islands, make sure you visit Kilesand Beach, which is the longest beach in the islands. The coastal scenery here is absolutely stunning, but take time to look at the tiny colorful shell fragments hidden in the sand. They’re beautiful but easy to miss… much like this gem of an idyllic European archipelago. Recommended by Bret of Blue Ridge Mountains Travel Guide
Aalborg, the fourth largest city in Denmark, is located in the northern part of the country in an area referred to as northern Jutland. It is sometimes referred to as the “Paris of the North” and it’s easy to see why. It’s a beautiful city that gives visitors all the history and culture that Denmark has to offer without all the tourists that flock to Copenhagen. The earliest settlements around Aalborg date back to the year 700 AD. Because of its position along the Limfjord (the narrow track of water dividing northern and central Denmark), Aalborg became an important trading post during the Germanic Iron and Viking ages. In over a thousand years Aalborg has evolved from a Viking settlement to a vibrant city with a large assortment of restaurants, lively nightlife, and a quaint pedestrian-only shopping area in its medieval center. Below the busiest shopping street is the Gray Bread Monastery Museum, an underground museum that chronicles the history of a Viking marketplace which emerged in Aalborg in the late 900s. The Aalborg Historical Museum has exhibits covering all 1,200 years of Aalborg’s history from the Stone Age to the Viking Age until modern times. If you prefer nightlife, there are plenty of discos and bars along Jamfru Ana Gade, quite possibly the most popular street in Aalborg. You can also go to the Salling Roof Top where you can see a 360-degree view of Aalborg and the Limfjord. These and more make Aalborg one of Denmark’s best and underrated destinations.
Recommended by Jacki of DC Day Tripping
Scotland – the land of mountains and lochs, whiskey and haggis, bagpipes and Harry Potter train journeys. Everyone has heard about Edinburgh before and the Isle of Skye and the Loch Ness monster, but there are also many places in Scotland that are far off the beaten path. The region of Argyll is such a place. Lying northwest of Glasgow, it is terribly underrated, especially among international visitors, yet at the same time, there is so much to do and see here. Argyll has the longest coastline of Scotland, dotted with quirky coastal towns, iconic castle ruins, lush gardens and of course whiskey distilleries. Many of the Scottish islands can be found in this region too, from the whiskey island Islay to the Isle of Coll which is a Dark Sky Park. Many of the best places to visit in Argyll are surprisingly close to Glasgow – less than an hour by car or on public transport, yet they can feel miles away from civilization. Despite it’s proximity to the city, Argyll has some of the remotest corners of Scotland! No surprise, that the region is popular among adventure seekers and nature lovers. There are many outdoor activities in Argyll: you could fly to the Isle of Tiree and cycle around the island in a day, or take the train to Arrochar and bag a Munro in the Arrochar Alps – that’s Scottish for a mountain over 3,000 ft! If you have a little more time, I recommend taking the train to Oban or road tripping around the Kintyre and Cowal peninsulas! It’s time that Argyll stepped in the limelight and more people discovered its beautiful secrets! Recommended by Kathie of Watch Me See
When looking for places to visit in the United Kingdom outside of London, Sheffield should be on your cards. What makes Sheffield so special is not just the fact it has been named as one of the greenest cities and Europe but, it has the Peak District, a national park, right on its doorstep. If you start your adventure in the city center you may want to explore places like the Winter Gardens which allow you to discover many different types of trees and plant species. Or, maybe you’d prefer to check out Sheffield’s Cathedral? It’s a Grade I listed building and was visited by the Queen of England back in 2015. No matter what you decide to do in Sheffield, though, make sure you wear some comfortable walking shoes because the city is built on 7 hills. Walking can be a challenge for those more accustom to flat cities. Finally, remember that wherever you are in Sheffield, you are always strategically positioned to be able to venture out into the countryside. Recommended by Daniel of Layer Culture
Minsk, the capital of Belarus, isn’t often on the tourist radar. Until recently it was required to have a visa to visit Belarus, but the rules have been changed recently, and now if you fly in and out of Minsk airport you are allowed to stay in the country up to 30 days with no paperwork. Many European airlines, as well as local Belavia, serve Minsk airport so getting there shouldn’t be difficult.
Even if Minsk has a long history, the city was severely destroyed during World War 2. What you can see now is a perfect Soviet city, full of magnificent architecture from the mid-20th century. Seeing all the fantastic buildings from that period is one of the best things to do in Minsk. But the city has some modern attractions too, including the hipster area of Kastrychnitskaya street with lots of cool bars and cafes, little shops and great street art. You should plan at least 2 days in Minsk to see all it has to offer.
Recommended by Kami of My Wanderlust
Often overlooked by travelers on their way to the Cliff of Moher, Limerick is one of Ireland’s best-kept secrets. The third largest city in Ireland, and known as the Treaty City, Limerick is located in the Province of Munster in the western part of the country. The highlight of Limerick is the 13th century King John’s Castle. Situated on the banks of the River Shannon, the history of King John’s Castle dates back to the time of the Vikings. The castle offers spectacular views of Limerick and the River Shannon. With its location on the River Shannon, Limerick offers adventure travelers a chance to explore the Shannon Estuary via kayak. For museum lovers, Limerick’s Hunt Museum has over 2,500 objects on display including works from Pablo Picasso. It’s also a great destination to try typical Irish food and drink. Limerick has a vibrant food scene lead by local culinary artisans producing some of Ireland’s best cheese, breads and meat products. On weekends throughout the year, food producers and restaurants showcase Limerick’s locally produced culinary offerings at the city’s open-air Milk Market. Travelers can find a wide range of traditional Irish pubs serving up pints of Guinness and locally brewed craft beer. The city’s Market Quarter is home to several pubs and nightclubs featuring live music and loads of good old Irish “craic.” Limerick is a three-hour drive from Dublin. Both national rail and bus service can be used to reach the city. Ireland’s Shannon Airport is a major gateway for travelers coming from the United States and Canada and is only a 30-minute drive. Limerick is a great destination for travelers looking to experience the “real” Ireland.
Recommended by Amber of Food Drink Destinations
Elburg is a beautiful Hansa town in the province of Gelderland, The Netherlands. This medieval city gained its city rights somewhere between 1220 and 1271. Elburg is one of the cute cities of The Netherlands that isn’t often visited by foreigners but is so worth the trip. This Dutch fishing town is one in a kind. It’s old, beautiful and has the most relaxing atmosphere.
From discovering an old monastery garden to walking through the century-old picturesque streets. And from exploring the history of Elburg at the Museum of Elburg to walking around this Dutch Hansa town on the rampart of Elburg for the best view of the city.
One of the best things you can do in Elburg is visiting Museum Elburg. Not only will you learn about the history of Elburg, The Netherlands, but you can also discover the monastery that it’s located in from the inside.
It’s very easy to get to Elburg from Amsterdam for instance. You’d have to take at least two trains and one bus to reach Elburg by public transport. But you should have a look at the website 9292.nl for the best and fastest route.
Recommended by Manon of Visiting the Dutch Countryside
Most visitors to Germany probably prefer to visit the big cities like Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt or Hamburg as well as the Black Forest or the coast. But the mountain range Harz also has a lot to offer. An example of an amazing place to find in this area is the medieval town of Goslar, which is located on the edge of the Harz. It made its name in the 10th and 11th centuries as an ore mining area and imperial city. Not only history buffs will love this place. Numerous museums and well-preserved half-timbered houses let you dive into the history of this once so important city.
Even today, both the Kaiserpfalz (Imperial Palace), as well as the mine, which since 1992 is part of the UNESCO World Heritage, can be visited. But even for a relaxed trip, Goslar is simply the perfect destination. Whether you take beautiful walks through the peaceful city center, which wins you over with its medieval charm or as a starting point for excursions into the countryside. The Harz Mountains are only a stone’s throw away.
Especially in winter Goslar is a wonderful destination. Anyone looking for the most popular and beautiful Christmas markets in Germany, Goslar will certainly have caught the eye. Every year hundreds of visitors come from all over Germany and abroad to visit this unique Christmas market.
I think that one of the most underrated places in Europe is Kinderdijk in the Netherlands. This tiny little village houses one of the Dutch UNESCO sites and is rather spectacular. With windmills, dikes, canals and gorgeous green fields, it is hard not to fall in love with the place. One of the reasons why only a few tourists make it to the spot is because it is a day trip away from the country’s capital Amsterdam. Not everyone realizes that it is worth heading towards. A museum on the site explains how Kinderdijk is connected to Dutch history and how it was one of the projects where they displayed their amazing water management skills.
If you visit the site, you can take a boat ride in the canals, walk through the fields, climb up a windmill and get some gorgeous photographs. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is my favorite spot in the Netherlands. Can’t wait to head back to it again someday.
Recommended by Penny of Globe Trove
Wroclaw, the capital of Lower Silesia in Poland, is a university town that is one of the most underrated places in Europe. With a complex past under the rule of at least eight different kingdoms, the buildings in Wroclaw have a story to tell.
Coined the Venice of Poland due to the Baroque architecture and cultural institutions that can be found all over the city, a walk through its beautiful Old Town is a must. Make your way through the Market Square and be awed by the blast of different colors of the structures around you. One of the largest market squares in Europe at 3.8 hectares, there are plenty of tourist attractions in this area like the spectacular Zdroj Fountain and the 13th-century pillory by the Town Hall.
The Cathedral Island, the oldest part of the city, is another tourist attraction in Wroclaw that should be on your list. Possibly the prettiest quarter of the Old Town, you will be surrounded by brick buildings and steeples of old churches.
Recommended by Karolina of Karolina Patryk
A large but little-known city in southeastern Poland, Rzeszow has a charm unlike many Eastern European cities.
The city is growing in business, tourism and is a center for many educational institutions. It is home to several theatre, museums and art galleries and has several growing industries, as well as its own airport that serves many connecting flights within Europe.
Rzeszow has a number of attractions that include the main market square and underground city passages. There are a number of monuments spread out throughout the city that provide fascinating historical knowledge. The Bernadine Monastery Complex is a point of interest and has beautiful Italian gardens. Taking a stroll on the roundabout footbridge in Rzeszow is a unique experience, as well as the raised bridge, rises up above an intersection in the city.
However, the city’s best attraction includes Lubomirksi Castle, one of the best-preserved and most remarkable castles in Poland. The expansive grounds provide hours of exploration and the building itself is host to the provincial court though entrance to the Castle is only available at limited times. Learn more about traveling to Poland.
Recommended by Diana of Travel Guide to Poland
A beautiful city founded by the Romans, Trier is located in southwestern Germany, close to the border with Luxembourg. Considered by many as the oldest city in Germany, the Roman influence is clear in the city. The city is situated in a valley and has a spectacular view from the nearby hillsides in the evening.
Trier’s main attractions include the Roman imperial baths that lay in ruins, the Porta Nigra, a well-preserved city gate as well as the massive basilica in the city. The city is also home to the German philosopher Karl Marx and a stroll by his home or a visit to the museum is an interesting way to learn about one of the most influential philosophers in modern history.
Trier is easily reached from Luxembourg airport by car or bus and is easily navigable by foot. There is a large pedestrian walking area in the city that is filled with shops, restaurants, and a square.
Recommended by Diana of The Elusive Family
Beskid Wyspowy, Poland
When international tourists visit Krakow and want to explore nearby places they head to Auschwitz concentration camp, Zakopane mountain resort, and Wieliczka Salt Mine. But there is actually one more great place to visit near Krakow.
It is Beskid Wyspowy – a picturesque mountain range belonging to Beskidy mountains and stretching for about 75 kilometers in southern Poland.
It is a perfect place for hikers, nature lovers and all travelers looking for a charming getaway. Definitely not as popular as Tatra mountains, it is a quiet and peaceful place. Another advantage of Beskid Wyspowy is the fact that the trails are easy to hike and suitable also for families with children. There is no exposure, no avalanches in winter – those mountains are perfect for everyone!
The highest peak in Beskid Wyspowy is Mogielica – it reaches 1170 meters. There is also a lookout tower from which hikers get to admire a beautiful panorama of Beskidy mountains. It is the best place to hike to in Beskid Wyspowy.
The fastest way to get to Beskid Wyspowy is to rent a car – it is just 1.5-hour drive from Krakow. It is also possible to travel there by bus – there are several bus shuttles leaving frequently from Krakow main bus station every day. The destination of a shuttle would be Mszana Dolna – a lovely mountain village from where you can start hiking into the mountains or just relax in a restaurant which will be serving traditional Polish food.
Recommended by Joanna of Over here
One of the most elegant destinations in Europe is the spa town of Baden-Baden, yet it’s not on the average tourist’s horizon. This grand German town has a fascinating history as a wellness destination for an international elite that dates right back to Roman times when Emperor Caracalla soaked in its thermal springs.
Today, one of the most popular attractions in Baden-Baden is the Roman-inspired Caracalla Baths, a spacious bathing complex with indoor and outdoor thermal pools and an extensive sauna complex where you’ll find a wide range of relaxation options, from a rustic Forest Sauna to the more avant-garde Blue Space Sensesraum Room.
The other famous bathhouse in Baden-Baden is Friedrichsbad, a nude bathing experience in a historic neoclassical building. Here, the experience is very different than Caracalla’s – it’s a more structured circuit of steam, sauna, massage, and bathing, and the atmosphere is quiet and almost serious.
Other things to do include strolling along the famous Lichentaler Alle, a scenic park walk that runs along the River Oos; visiting the Kurhaus and its glamorous casino, said to be the most beautiful in the world; or opting for a luxury spa experience at the renowned Brenners Park Hotel & Spa. Easy to reach by train, Baden-Baden is located 170 kilometers south of Frankfurt.
Recommended by Carol of Wandering Carol
Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Cesky Krumlov, located in the south Bohemian region of the Czech Republic, will not only transport you back in time but make you feel as though you have stepped into a fairytale. The best part about Cesky Krumlov is its easy access from the city of Prague, which is why adding a couple of days in this small village to your Prague visit is a must.
Cesky Krumlov is accessible by train or by bus. The bus is a direct route and takes about 3 hours (seat reservations are highly recommended). The train involves a transfer at the Ceske Budejovice station, after about a 2.5 to 3.5-hour ride. After transferring it’s an additional 45-minute ride to the Cesky Krumlov station.
Once in town, there is a multitude of things to do. You can wander the cute streets and alleys, walk (or take a boat) along the Vltava River, and you must eat as much traditional food as possible. If you only eat one thing (which is unlikely) then it must be the traditional and delicious Czech cake/sweet pastry dessert: Trdelník. I can’t begin to explain how to pronounce this, but it’s made from rolled dough wrapped around a stick, which is then grilled and topped with sugar and a walnut mix. In my opinion, the best (and only) way to have it is filled with chocolate and soft serve ice cream.
In addition to wandering, eating and enjoying the river, there are a number of locally run shops, bars, and restaurants in town; depending on the day of your visit you may even stumble across a pop-up farmers or flea market, or even a festival you had no idea was going on. If shopping for hours on end is not your thing, there are a couple of museums, as well as a “treat yourself” day spa located in the 5-star Hotel Růže.The star attraction of Cesky Krumlov is the castle, which dates back to the 13th century. The castle’s towering presence is impossible to miss and is the reason the village was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. Recommended by Lindsey of Seven Day Weekender
Although most visitors to Europe have heard of Vienna or Salzburg, Austria has many more cities worth visiting. One of the most underrated cities in the quiet and beautiful of Linz, located in Upper Austria. This beautiful city full of pretty pastel buildings oozes charm along its picturesque mostly-pedestrian historic city center that sits along the Danube River. Although today Linz is a powerhouse for the industry today, the city still has historic institutions, including the original bakery that created Linzer tart. Within this picturesque bakery filled with historic photos, you can imagine yourself being transported in time. After a coffee and a Linzer tart, you can explore Linz’s modern side, including several cutting edge museums showing off today’s revolutionary artists. This juxtaposition of the culture of history is only part of Linz’s charm as it is a fantastic base for exploring Austria’s often underrated mountains for hiking and skiing that is only an hour away. Recommended by Karen of Wanderlusting K
St. Johann, Austria
St.Johann in Tirol is located in the Austrian Alps between Salzburg and Innsbruck, next to the small international jet setter city Kitzbühel. You can get there by car or train. St.Johann is also my hometown and you should visit the small town in the mountains if you are looking to get to know the authentic face of the Austrian Alps.
The town is popular among winter sports fans and those who enjoy going on a hike in the mountains during the hotter days of the year. In fact, we value sports a lot and this reflects in the things that you can do there all year round. You can visit the panorama baths were you get a view of the crisp mountains while enjoying a hot bath outdoors or you can hire a mountain bike to discover the Roman road across the forest.
Visit in autumn to experience the golden season. We celebrate the harvest season and some of the most amazing food specialties can be tried at that time such as chanterelle mushrooms with wild game meat served with bread dumplings. We celebrate food big time during the Almabtrieb, with the internationally well known Knödel dumpling feast and this is something you definitely don’t want to miss!
Recommended by Helene of Masala Herb
We’re not really “off the beaten path” travelers. We understand the appeal of big cities and tourist destinations and visit them ourselves. But we absolutely love finding quieter smaller spots that, while not entirely unique, are at least a little less known to the typical tourist. Oradea in Romania was one of those spots. Last year, we spent two weeks in Romania. Though we were especially excited to visit the more popular places in Transylvania like Cluj and Brasov, we actually arranged our route so we could visit Oradea, a place we’d never even heard of before starting our planning.
Oradea is a beautiful city well-known for its art nouveau architecture. The best places to see these interesting, colorful buildings are in Union Square, the city’s spotlessly clean main plazas, and on the main shopping street Calea Republicii. These areas are on either side of the Crișul Repede river, which is great for a stroll, especially at sunset. The city also has a lovely park, an impressive synagogue, and a fortress. Read about more things to do in Oradea.
Oradea is in the north-eastern part of Romania, only eight miles from the Hungarian border. We arrived via bus from Cluj and departed for Hungary by train. Though the loveliest parts of Oradea are walkable, the bus and train stations are a bit further out. But Oradea city is easy to navigate using its public transport system of trams and buses.
Our two days in Oradea were relaxed and enjoyable. We highly recommend visiting this underrated city in Europe.
Recommended by Sarah and Justin of Travel Breath Repeat
One of the most beautiful places in Europe (yes, that is right) is a place that hardly anyone knows: Valposchiavo.
Valposchiavo, in Switzerland, is located in the canton of Graubünden, close to the Italian border and after having traveled in Switzerland extensively, I can assure you that this part of the country is stunning.
There are a few places that you need to visit – one of it is the Ozpizio Bernina train station (which is also the highest regular train station in the world) that is served by the Bernina Express route (the most beautiful train route in the world btw). From there you can do an quite easy uphill hike to Sassal Masone – the view from there is probably one of the most beautiful views you can imagine.
But there is more in Valposchiavo – explore the gorgeous Lago di Saoseo and Lagh da Val Viola on another hike and also visit Cavaglia Glacier Garden and explore the tiny village center of Poschiavo. This area of Switzerland is a real hidden gem and you should plan in some days to see the most beautiful hidden parts. If it is so stunning how come it is not crowded? Well, I can only assume that its remote location is the only reason.
There can be no other reason!
Recommended by Arzo of Arzo Travels
Bela Krajina, Slovenia
Most who visit Slovenia stick to the tourist trail after all Lake Bled is iconic for a reason. However on my second visit to the country I wanted to go off the beaten track, so chose Bela Krajina. Situated in the South East of the country and bordering Croatia, it turned out to be the perfect place to relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery.
The region is covered in lush green countryside, vineyards and turquoise rivers. Great for those who love outdoor activities like hiking, canoeing, paddle boarding and cycling. It is also the best place to connect with the local and traditional Slovenian way of life, you can go wine tasting, bread making, and even oil tasting. It is such a hidden gem that we managed to explore much of the area on our own in the middle of July without any other tourists turning up.
From the capital, Ljubljana, this treasure is a 2.5-hour train ride to Metlika (only 8 EUR one way). However, I would suggest hiring a car to travel around Slovenia, as public transport isn’t as frequent or as fast as it could be (for instance driving to Metlika takes 1hr).
Recommended by Roshni of The Wanderlust Within
Novi Sad, Serbia
It may be Serbia’s second-largest city, but Novi Sad still manages to fly under the radar.
Capital of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina, Novi Sad is located in northern Serbia, close to the borders with Hungary and Romania. The Austro-Hungarian influence can be seen in the city’s urban planning and neoclassical architecture. It feels a world away from Belgrade, despite being less than 100 km or 1.5 hours by bus from Serbia’s capital.
The heart of the city is Trg Slobode (Freedom Square), a pleasant public space surrounded by pastel facades. The Name of Mary Church, with its colorful Zsolnay tile mosaic roof, sits at the top of the square. Nearby, Zmaj Jovina, the main pedestrian drag, is lined with outdoor cafes and wine bars. My favorite is Trčika, a tiny espresso bar housed inside a decommissioned tram carriage.
Just over the river, Petrovaradin Fortress is Novi Sad’s most recognizable landmark. The fortress’s rolling hills, drawbridges, and tunnels are fun to explore by day; but the area comes alive at night when locals climb the walls and ramparts in search of the perfect sunset spot. Every July, Petrovaradin hosts EXIT Festival, one of the biggest live music events in the region.
Novi Sad might be underrated, but come 2021, the spotlight will be on the city when it takes up the mantle of European Capital of Culture – the first ever non-EU city to be awarded the honor.
Recommended by Emily of Wander-Lush
For me, Bordeaux is a city that clearly deserves more attention. With its beautiful buildings, this city in the south of France is simply something very special. It is hardly surprising that Bordeaux’s old town has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage since 2007.
My absolute favorite place in Bordeaux is the Miroir d’Eau. It is the largest water mirror in the world that faces and reflects the Place de la Bourse. This square is considered the landmark of the city which makes its reflection even more impressive.
Probably the most beautiful district of Bordeaux is Saint-Pierre. Here you will find many old and historic buildings. This part of town is built in the typical French style known from French films and the media. If you have some time, you should definitely take a walk through Saint-Pierre. In one of the small bars, you can stop to try
a sip a bottle of the famous Bordeaux wine. In this part of the city, you will also find the impressive Porte Cailhau, which rises 35 meters in height.
If you have some time, you should not miss a boat trip on the river Garonne, which flows through Bordeaux. So you can not only discover the city from the water but also the surrounding vineyards, which are so important for the city.
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
BiH has been part of many empires and has been ruled by many different peoples. That’s why today it is a place where cultures, ethnicities, and religions coexist. The best way to experience this is by visiting its capital, Sarajevo.
Walk around Baščaršija, and you’ll feel like you’re in Istanbul’s Sultanahmet, turn to Marijin Dvor and you’ll be transported to Vienna. Continue to Ciglane and you’ll find yourself in the middle of socialist Yugoslavia. Truly, Sarajevo is where the East meets the West, at the heart of Europe. Pass through the Latin Bridge to see the place where World War II started, and visit Galerija 11/07/95 to learn about the horrors of the latest war. If you want to see more about it, head to the mountains that oversee the city, to the abandoned venues of the Winter Olympics, which Sarajevo hosted in 1984. The tracks were used in the ’90s as a frontline of the war, facilitating the 4-year siege the city was under.
Today Sarajevo is a vibrant, cool city, that managed to transform something somber into beauty.
Beyond the history and the architecture, what really should convince you to visit BiH is its people. Learn a couple of words of the local language and you’ll make a ton of new friends. Don’t be surprised if you’re invited to someone’s house for a coffee, it’s normal Bosnian hospitality!
Recommended by Coni of Experiencing the Globe
Croatia is surely no hidden gem these days – places like Dubrovnik, Plitvice Lakes, and Split are hotspots. And the places are beautiful – but have you known that Split has a little sister, equally beautiful? This little sister is Trogir – Trogir is located about 30km west of Split and you can get to Trogir from Split by bus or drive there. With a population of only about 13,000 inhabitants, it is a quite small historic town at the Adriatic Sea but is full of charm. Yes, it might be true that you will not get lost for hours in the small town but definitely take your time to stroll the streets of the old town- the streets are more beautiful than in Split, to be honest. The cafes in Trogir are vibrant and cute – some of the cutest in Croatia. Head to the cathedral and the bell tower at the market square – for great views and to see beautiful architecture – and also admire the clock tower before heading to the promenade where you will find the Kamerlengo Castle (for more great views). And while it can busier in the summer months, it is still a place that is not really on the radar of my Croatia visitors and thus, not nearly as busy as its bigger sister. Recommended by Arzo of Arzo Travels
Despite being the second largest city in France, Marseille in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur French region tends to be underrated by visitors, especially by foreigner visitors. And it is a pity because what was the European Capital of Culture in 2013 has many interesting things to see and do. Perhaps Marseille’s main sights are Le Panier neighborhood and le Vieux Port (the old harbor) in the city center. This area, with an old town feeling, went through extensive cleaning and renovation not long time ago and today it is great to have a stroll around or sit in a terrasse pastis in hand to watching how life goes by. The Church of Notre Dame de la Garde is another of Marseille’s most famous landmarks, situated on the top of a hill overlooking the city and the sea.
Marseille is also the gate of the Calanques National Park Marseille – Cassis, a beautiful ensemble of coastal walks, creeks, and isles in the Mediterranean Sea, between Marseille and the picturesque town of Cassis
Recommended by Elisa of France Bucket List
Asturias is a region in northern Spain. It is right smack in the middle of “green Spain” an area that is lush with green meadows and forests fed by abundant rainfall and sparkling sunshine. The region is also frequently referred to as Spain’s most underrated spot or Spain biggest secret.
This region sits on the spectacular coast of the Bay of Biscay and has its back to the Picos de Europa National Park with its soaring, snow-capped mountains and rushing rivers. This stunning park, one of the oldest in Europe having been founded in 1916, has many hiking trails most notably the Ruta de Cares, a challenging hike that crosses rivers and goes through natural tunnels.
Asturias lacks for nothing; broad sandy beaches, 250 million-year-old-caves, and history dating from the Paleolithic to medieval to contemporary. It boasts striking cultural centers, excellent museums, and several UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The local cuisine in Asturias is certainly a feast of culinary achievement. The signature dish is a thick stew made of beans, sausages, pieces of pork and greens called fabada. The local drink is an alcoholic cider called Sidra that is poured from a bottle to a glass from about a meter in the air. This is done to aerate the liquid before drinking. It’s amazing to watch people pour from such a distance without missing a drop!
As spectacular as this region is, it won’t remain underrated for long.
Recommended by Talek of Travels with Talek
One of the best underrated cities to visit in Italy is undoubtedly Perugia – the capital of the Umbria region.
Perugia – and entire the region of Umbria – has a lot of the quaint hill towns and charming countryside that makes Tuscany so popular yet gets significantly fewer tourists. There is no shortage of things to do in the Umbrian capital and travelers should spend at least a couple of days getting to know the city.
Some of the best attractions include enjoying the views and sunset at Giardini Carducci, exploring the streets of underground Perugia and possibly taking a day trip to nearby towns such as Assisi. Visitors should also make sure to sample the unique Umbrian cuisine which is particularly famous for its extensive use of truffles!
Located almost exactly halfway between Rome and Florence in the center of Italy, Perugia is the perfect place to stop if you’re looking to break up your journey between the two popular cities. There are direct trains to Perugia from both cities.
Recommended by Michael of The World was here first
Rugova Mountains, Kosovo
Kosovo is probably the most underrated destination in Europe. Few people know that for such a small country there is so much on offer. For example, it might surprise you to hear that Kosovo is a perfect destination for nature and hiking. The Rugova mountains in Kosovo are part of Europe’s wildest mountains where bears and wolves still roam around.
Tourism is developing as we speak, but both the peak of the Balkans trail and the via Dinarica trail now cross right through the Rugova mountains. However, you don’t need to be an avid hiker to enjoy the beauty of Rugova. From the small town of Peja, it is an easy and scenic drive to Boge. A popular holiday resort among Kosovars.
If you drive from Peja to Boge you will first come through the beautiful Rugova canyon before you wind your way up to the Rugova valley. Once you are in Boge you are surrounded by the Rugova mountains everywhere and it is the perfect place for some easy hikes.
Peja is also a nice town with several attractions such as an old Serbian monastery, a lively bazaar, and a beautiful mosque. With some excellent restaurants, it is a great place to relax and reflect on your mountain adventures.
If you are planning a trip to the Balkans make sure you include Kosovo and the Rugova mountains. Some budget airlines understand Kosovo’s appeal and are now flying to Kosovo’s capital Pristina. From there it is only an hour to Peja and the Rugova mountains.
Recommended by Ellis of Backpack Adventures
Rila 7 Lakes, Bulgaria
Bulgaria as a country is little known and in my opinion one of the most underrated countries in Europe. It’s a great value destination for outdoor lovers. In the summer, head over to Bulgaria’s national parks such as Pirin and Rila for plenty of adventure opportunities.
From Sofia, you can take a day trip to visit Rila Monastery as well as going hiking in Rila National Park. The most famous hike in this park is Rila 7 Lakes, where you’ll be rewarded with a view of 7 blue-green lakes).
Pirin National Park is another popular national park in Bulgaria. What I saw in Pirin National Park just blew my expectation away. I didn’t expect Bulgaria to have such forbidding and incredible mountain ranges. There are plenty of hiking trails to explore here in Pirin National Park, but a particularly popular and challenging hike is to traverse the knife-edge ridge between the 2 peaks in the Pirin called Koncheto Ridge. The ridge connects Vihren and Kutelo Peaks and has steep dropoffs on both sides. Recommended for sure-footed adventurous hikers only.
How to get here: Bansko is a town right outside Pirin National Park and is a 3 hr bus ride from Sofia. The town itself is small enough that you don’t need a car to get around. In the summer, there’s a shuttle that goes from the town to the national park.
Recommended by Jill of Jack and Jill travel the World
Roughly 85 km north of Rome, on the way to Florence, Viterbo is one of the most underrated cities in central Italy. The area was inhabited by a flourishing pre-Roman civilization, while the impeccably preserved defensive walls and the ancient, Medieval district that is one of the main attractions of the city, started developing around the year 1000. In the 13th century, Viterbo was so prosperous that the pontiff moved his permanent residence there. Most of the local visitors head to Viterbo in order to relax and have a bath in one of the many hot-springs located around the old city, like the popular “Terme dei Papi”. The most evocative part of the Medieval Quarters includes a complex of little squares, fountains, and alleys that lead to the Palace of the Popes and the neighboring Cathedral of Viterbo. Food and accommodation are convenient, compared to other art cities in Italy. Visiting Viterbo it is one of the easiest and most fulfilling day tours from Rome. To get there, take a train from any of the main cities in Italy, then walk through the ancient gates and into the historical center.
Recommended by Anna of Travel Connect Experience
Kotor’s is one of the most stunning gems of the Balkans, and still unknown to many, making it one of the most underrated places in Europe. As you can see through our photos of Montenegro, the whole country is worth visiting, and it’s hard not to fall head-over-heels in love with it.
From the impressively well preserved Old Town, views to Europe’s southernmost fjords, and to the sparkling blue waters of the Adriatic sea, there are plenty of things that make Kotor special. The region stands out not only for its beauty but also for its rich history, which makes it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While in this charming town, there are a few things you absolutely have to do: get lost in the small streets of the Old Town and marvel at its stunning architecture, climb the majestic City Walls to get the best views in the region and explore the stunning bay. In the middle of all the exploring, don’t forget to stop at one of the many restaurants to try some deliciously fresh seafood.
The easiest way to get to Kotor is by bus from one of the three nearby airports (Dubrovnik, Tivat, or Podgorica). The bus trip is short and comfortable and filled with breathtaking views along the way.
Recommended by Maria & Rui of Two find a Way
Zaragoza is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated cities in Spain. It’s a great place to spend a few days if you have the time but it’s also an amazing day trip because of its location right in the middle between the two important Spanish cities Madrid and Barcelona. I visit Zaragoza at least once a year since Eduardo’s aunt is living in this beautiful capital of Aragón.
Besides the impressive Moorish palace Aljafería, the most important attraction in the city is the impressive Basílica del Pilar. This impressive Basilica is not only the biggest baroque-style church in Spain but also one of the most important churches in the country. You can find this imposing building right in the heard of the city on the Plaza de Nuestra Senora del Pilar. If you want to have an even better view on Pilar, you can have a little walk around it until you reach the so-called Puente de la Piedra. This bridge, also called Bridge of lions, leads over the Ebro river, which flows through the city.
Just a few steps away from the Basílica del Pilar, you can find another important building of the city – The Cathedral of the savior, which is also called La Seo de Zaragoza. This cathedral is truly unique because of its Arabic influences.
Read moreThe Ultimate Guide to Zaragoza
Ohrid, North Macedonia
The town of Ohrid is a UNESCO world heritage commonly referred to as the ‘Pearl of Macedonia.’ One of Europe’s oldest continually inhabited cities, Ohrid is a place where nature and culture mix to create a place that is truly unique. Though it is fast becoming the preeminent tourist destination in Macedonia, Ohrid is still largely off the beaten path by European standards.
Ohrid lies three hours south of Skopje, near the Macedonian border with Albania. Crowned by a turreted 10th-century castle, the city’s old town tumbles down a mountainside and overlooks the sapphire waters of Lake Ohrid. The city’s picturesque streets are home to wood framed Byzantine apartments, quaint cobbled lanes and nearly one church for every day of the year.
The photogenic Church of St John at Kaneo is Ohrid’s most notable attraction and one of Macedonia’s preeminent landmarks. Other highlights include the church of St Kliment, the Church of St Sophia and the Monastery of St Naum—a historically important monastic complex that is accessible by boat from Ohrid’s waterfront.
The ‘Pearl of Macedonia’ is brimming with things to see and do.
From dining on the waterfront to swimming on a lakeside beach, Ohrid is an underrated gem that is sure to gain popularity in the coming years.
Recommended by Erika of Erika Travels
Only about 50 km from the Portuguese capital Lisbon lies the peninsula Setúbal with its capital of the same name. We actually just came to this beautiful place by coincidence, although we had planned to explore Lisbon further in the first place. In the end, we spontaneously followed the recommendation of a local to visit his hometown Setúbal instead and didn’t regret it. The small seaside town offers a quiet and peaceful atmosphere and can be easily and quickly reached by train from Lisbon.
The big highlight of the city, besides the delicious Portugisian delicacies, is the beaches and nature reserves. The city beach is great, but often a bit crowded. But if you drive a bit outside of the city, you can experience incredibly beautiful beaches. The cool waters of the Atlantic Ocean provide for a nice refreshment. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a few dolphins circling offshore. On the beaches, however, you will hardly find tourists, but mostly locals which makes Setúbal a way more peaceful place than its crowded neighbor Lisbon. The nature reserves Arrábida Natural Park and Reserva Natural Natural Reserve of Estuário do Sado are also located in the immediate vicinity of Setúbal.
Cabo de Gata, Spain
Cabo de Gata is a nature reserve in the south of Spain. The nature reserve has the only desert landscape in Spain. It is situated on a rocky coastline with overhanging cliffs and some of the best beaches in Spain. And all without the crowds.
The village of San Jose is a good place to stay as there are several hiking routes starting from the little town. A good route is to hike from beach to beach. The larger beaches like Genoveses beach and Monsul beach are accessible by bus or car (there are limited parking spots and parking fees apply in the summer months). However, there are numerous amazing beaches between these that are only possible to get to by foot or by boat.
Further north, a good place to stay is the village of Las Negras. This is where you can get to the hippie cove Cala de San Pedro, said to be the only beach in Spain where you are allowed to camp. This is also fairly close to one of the most famous beaches in Cabo de Gata, Los Muertos beach. This is a beautiful white pebbled beach that requires hiking for about 15 minutes, so good footwear is recommended.
The closest airport is in Almeria. From there it is possible to take a bus to San Jose. However, I recommend getting a rental car so that you can drive around the impressive area and easily see all the best spots. It takes only 30 minutes from the airport to San Jose. From Malaga airport, it takes less than 3 hours by car.
Recommended by Linn of Brainy Backpackers
Matala, Crete, Greece
It doesn’t get any dreamier than the town of Matala which is located on the southern coast of Crete, Greece. It keeps its tranquility and doesn’t get crowded even during summer, so it’s a great peaceful spot to soak up some sun.
Apart from its gorgeous beach, Matala has a few unique points of interest. Right next to the beach, you’ll find Matala’s hippie caves. They date back to the prehistoric Neolithic Age, and in the 60′, they were inhabited by the hippies who came to Matala from all over the world. For a few Euros, you can get inside these caves and enjoy a spectacular viewpoint over the beach.
When you stroll around the town itself, you’ll see that it’s full of colorful street paintings which are painted each year during Matala’s Beach Festival. They are one of the reasons why Matala is such an unusual place on the island and why you have to add it to your Crete itinerary.
How to get there: The frequency in which buses arrive in this town is quite low, so the best way to get to Matala is by car. Local car rental companies are pretty tourist-friendly and driving in Crete is fairly easy and convenient.
Recommended by Or of My Path in the World