So, you’re planning a Euro trip.
One look at a map of Europe and you’ve probably already scouted the usual suspects for your itinerary: London, Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, Rome.
Great cities, to be sure, though you’ve likely already visited them all vicariously through Instagram. Nothing compares to being there, of course, but you’re probably well aware of the sights and sites that await in all of them.
So we’re here to suggest adding an element of surprise on your next escape across the pond? Here are 9 cities in Europe that deliver in awe what they lack in hype…
Admit it: if it weren’t for the movie In Bruges, Brussels and Antwerp would probably be your only cities of reference in Belgium. While the latter two are merely fine, Bruges is quite spectacular, boasting incredibly well-preserved medieval architecture and a quintessentially European vibe.
Just a few hours south of Barcelona, Valencia’s the perfect option for those who fancy fewer humans. The city features a stunning mix of old and new architecture, a better beach than its northern neighbour, and a winding, lively city centre full of sprightly bars, shops, and restaurants.
Berlin and Munich are always worth a visit, but Hamburg’s certainly not without its due. It’s home to the second-largest port on the continent, the scale of which along the Elbe River is worth taking in. The speicherstadt (warehouse district) is a labyrinth of fascinating red-brick facades and canals, which, juxtaposed by the nearby HafenCity, Europe’s largest building project, offers an interesting glimpse of two vastly different eras of architectural mastery. The red light district is also worth a look, but you didn’t hear it from us.
Of all the amazing places to see in France, Lyon often flies under the radar. It has several magnificent waterfronts on account of both the Rhône and Saône rivers flowing through the city centre, and the Jardin botanique de Lyon is an absolute must-visit for some urban respite. A foodie’s dream, Lyon is also home to some of Europe’s most renowned chefs.
Google image the Slovenian capital and tell us you don’t want to go there immediately. Aesthetically, it might be the most pleasing city in Europe, its architecture best described as a mix of “wow” and “this is better than anything I’ve seen before.” It’s also remarkably affordable compared to other European capitals and adequately located between Austria, Italy, and Croatia.
Ok, so it’s geographically horrendous, but don’t overlook Russia’s most progressive and exciting city. Paris aside, you simply won’t find architecture of such grandeur anywhere else in Europe. Saint Petersburg also boasts world-class cultural offerings – the Hermitage is especially notable – and the most refined version of Russian cuisine you’ll find anywhere. Plus, you can check The Church of Spilled Blood off your 2016 bucket list.
Oslo’s cool, but Bergen’s the gateway to the fabled Norwegian fjords. And this isn’t just some rusty old door, either – Bergen’s a golden arch of water-bound magic, surrounded by mountains with a UNESCO Heritage old quarter and those colourful buildings you associate with everywhere north of Germany. Definitely make a stop at the fish market.
Architecturally, very little makes sense in Rotterdam – which is also why it’s such an awesome sight to behold. Depending on the angle from which you view the city, Rotterdam shapeshifts into what can only be described as a clusterf*ck of skylines. It has more of a cosmopolitan buzz than Amsterdam, though certainly less of another type of buzz. It’s also highly regarded as the most adventurous city in the Netherlands when it comes to culinary offerings.
We’re going to have to direct you to Google images again for this one. Siena is at the heart of Italy’s breathtaking Tuscany region, a town time seems to have ignored since medieval days. The weather, wine, and food are all top-notch, and the crowds pleasantly manageable compared to other hot spots like Venice, Rome, and Florence.