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Top Ten Underrated European Cities

Updated on June 19, 2013

Everybody knows cities like Paris, London, Rome, and Barcelona are among the best in Europe, but there are many other fabulous European cities that just don’t get their fair share of the limelight. Whether the country’s capitals and bigger cities steal their thunder or official city tourism authorities don’t advertise their cities well, the cities on my list are slightly overlooked by travelers. And if you are looking to broaden the scope of your trips to Europe to include some less-talked-about but very unique places, add one of my ten most underrated European cities to your must-see in Europe list.

The Palio, Siena Italy
The Palio, Siena Italy

Siena Italy

Italy unquestionably is most desirable travel destination in the world. Everyone dreams to see Rome, Venice and Florence at least once in a lifetime. The country is full of popular vacation spots and attractions. But even the savviest of travelers exploring Italy could miss Siena, Italian capital of the Middle Ages. ‘The Beloved’, the jewel under the Tuscan sun, Siena is a unique city with historic architectural treasures and traditions which go back to the thirteen century, to the times when the city flourished as one of the major cities of Europe. And now sites like Piazza del Campo, the Duomo, Palazzo Pubblico and Palazzo Sansedoni, remind us of long history of the city. The Palio, the traditional horse race, which is held twice during the summer, is one of the most famous attractions of the city. And if you decided to visit Siena, better plan your visit around the Palio race, and you will enjoy best of Siena at the same time: the city under the sun, the Palio, Sienes specialties and great Tuscan wines!

Lyon France
Lyon France

Lyon France

It would be fair to say that Lyon is world-wide known city. The city, together with its suburbs and satellite towns, is the second-largest metropolitan area in France after Paris. However, Paris stole from Lyon not only the first place in size, but also in popularity. Most of tourists, visiting France, go to Paris, The South of France and French ski resorts, slightly overlooking Lyon. Meanwhile, Lyon is a very beautiful city with its architectural renaissance buildings and monuments, many museums and gardens, a famous opera house and great night life. And not everyone knows that Lyon is considered to be the gastronomic capital of Europe. With the big number of Michelin starred restaurants and finest chefs in Europe, the huge variety of local specialties and delights, Lyon is truly French cuisine paradise.

Bratislava Slovakia

Prague is the most lovable Eastern European travel destination, and the city definitely deserves it. But, what about Prague’s little sister Bratislava? Unfortunately, Bratislava has to exist in the shadow of gorgeous Prague. And that’s too bad, because Bratislava is a beautiful old city with its own fascinating history, impressive castles and churches, charming squares and streets. With history going back to 200 BC, Bratislava was formed under many cultural influences from the Celtics to Romans to Germans to Hungarians. Six centuries of Roman influence left many architectural sings of Roman culture in the old city, with the finest one – the Bratislava Castle.  The castle, built above the River Danube, now is home for Slovak National Museum and a great viewpoint of the city and the river. The city and particularly Old Town has been completely and stunningly renovated with new real estate developments, great accommodations, diverse restaurant and nightlife scene. Prepare to be charmed and even consider extending your stay!

Copenhagen Denmark
Copenhagen Denmark

Copenhagen Denmark

Nobody could say that Copenhagen is unpopular or unknown. Still, I think, that the city deserves more attention and popularity. And why not, the city is absolutely fantastic – beautiful canals and cobbled squares, copper spires and narrow streets, quaint old homes and blooming gardens, cozy sidewalk cafes and tempting pastry shops. Certainly the most famous attraction is Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park and pleasure garden right in the heart of Copenhagen. Best known for its flower gardens, Tivoli Gardens is also home for one of world’s oldest wooden roller coaster and the world’s tallest carousel. And of course another reason to visit Copenhagen is beer. Now Copenhagen is becoming one of top beer-drinking destinations in Europe. The city has many top class beer bars, brewpubs and beer shops. Here you can even easily find beers even from Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

Utrecht Holland
Utrecht Holland

Utrecht Holland

Utrecht is one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands. The city was founded in AD 47 as a Roman garrison. Standing on a tributary of the Rhine, Utrecht has several canals with Oudergracht, the oldest one. A walk along Oudergracht will give you a great tour of the old city. But the most romantic way to see the city of Utrecht is by horse-drawn carriage. The beautiful Gelderland horses will take you around the outer canals, parks, narrow alleyways, the inner canals and most impressive buildings of Utrecht. The skyline of Utrecht is a mass of spires - the city is full of beautiful churches, monasteries, castles and convents dated as far as 11th century. So, if you decided to visit ‘the country of windmills and cheese’, don’t limit your trip with Amsterdam, take a day or two to explore the Netherlands and include Utrecht in your itinerary.

Brussels Belgium
Brussels Belgium

Brussels Belgium

Tourists zipping between Amsterdam and Paris by train usually miss Brussels, but its rich, chocolaty mix of food and culture pleasantly surprises those who stop. As the capital of the European Union, the city is multicultural with a world of ethnic restaurants, not to mention Brussels specialties: mussels, Belgian fries, waffles, chocolate and yeasty local beers. Relax on the Grand Place, Brussels’ main square in the heart of the old town, enjoy Belgian cuisine and watch the parade of tourists from around the world. Or take a walk around old town, the city is great for walking tours, and stop by in a couple of Brussels museums. You can spend a few days in Brussels or just a few hours – Brussels is a great place to visit at any occasion.

Bruges Belgium
Bruges Belgium

Bruges Belgium

Most of the people probably never heard about Belgian city Bruges before recent Colin Farrell movie In Bruges. In fact, Bruges (Brugge in Dutch), is one of the most beautiful and well preserved medieval cities in Belgium with Renoir canals, gilded architecture, Flemish art and stay-a-while cafes. What can be better than ride a bike along a canal, then munch mussels and wash them down with the world’s best Belgian beer. Or make your trip to Bruges a romantic getaway – the city is perfect for a romance. Whatever you do in Bruges, you would feel like you are in a different world and even with the touristic crowds, Bruges is the kind of place where you don’t mind being a tourist.

Edinburg Scotland
Edinburg Scotland

Edinburgh Scotland

Even being Scotland’s capital and second-largest city Edinburgh is slightly overlooked by travelers. Meanwhile, Edinburgh is a unique combination of spectacular landscapes, elegant streets, cobbled alleys and incomparable sunsets. The buildings of this vibrant capital city, from the historic houses and famous Edinburgh Castle of the Royal Mile to the elegant Georgian terraces and crescents of the New Town, offer the perfect complement to the natural setting of hills and crags. Even though Edinburgh is most known for Hogmanay celebrations of the New Year, the city is perfect for a visit any time of the year. Don’t miss the surrounding Scottish lowlands and coastal villages on the outskirts of the city.

Tallinn Estonia
Tallinn Estonia

Tallinn Estonia

The capital of unknown for many but totally fabulous the Republic of Estonia, Tallinn is quite different from any city in Scandinavia or Europe. The cobbled streets with old merchant houses and medieval castles, church spires and red-tile roofed homes, the Old Town with ancient stone walls – Tallinn is surprisingly well preserved medieval town on the coast of the Gulf of Finland. And the city has managed to keep its uniqueness and style in spite of commercial and cultural European influence for last fifteen years. For those travelers who are looking for unexplored but civilizing and stylish destinations, Tallinn is a perfect choice. But hurry up, before Tallinn really takes off.

Lviv Ukraine
Lviv Ukraine

Lviv Ukraine

Ukraine as whole country should be on top of the list of underrated destinations in Europe. And even though some adventurous travelers and brave businessmen take a chance on Crimea and Kiev, Lviv doesn’t get enough attention. Lviv, the architectural jewel of western Ukraine, is a noticeably different from any Ukrainian cities. The city with quite and quaint old town, exquisite churches and cathedrals, wooded hills, charming cafes and cozy coffee shops is ideally suited for a walk and relaxation. Something you cannot say about many Ukrainian towns. A few hours spent in the old town would make you forget about any of Lviv’s shortcomings, such as traffic and pretty bad roads. But don’t forget you wouldn’t need too much money to enjoy memorable trip to Ukraine, and that makes the country a very desirable budget destination in Europe.

There are many underrated European cities. Please share with us your travel to Europe experiences and feel free to add your favorite European destinations to the list.

What is your favorite European travel destination?

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