When you think of cities in Europe, you probably think of cities such as London, Paris, and Rome. While these cities are beautiful and bucket-list-worthy indeed, there are also several underrated cities in Europe that are worth a visit too.
Europe is undeniably home to some of the most gorgeous places in the world from historical sites to castles to palaces and more! These places also include lesser-known cities that are begging to be explored.
Plus, there are several perks to visiting underrated cities in Europe. The crowds are smaller and prices for accommodation are consequently lower. It’s also a more sustainable way to travel because you’re supporting smaller economies that need help.
I’ve teamed up with some fellow travel bloggers to uncover 21 of the most underrated cities in Europe that belong on your bucket list. Trust me — you’ll have a serious case of wanderlust after reading about some of these cities!
In This Post:
21 Underrated Cities in Europe That Are Worth a Visit
There is something so bewitching about discovering cities that are off the beaten path. The following cities contain an unparalleled history and charm and you’re guaranteed to fall in love with them!
1. Almería, Spain
By Linn of Andalucia Hiking
The coastal city of Almeria doesn’t get close to the attention it actually deserves. Rich in history, the old town is worth a stroll. Make sure you visit Almeria Cathedral and don’t miss out on the incredible Alcazaba Fortress.
Not far from the Alcazaba, you can explore Castillo de San Cristobal, a fortified hilltop castle with remains from both Muslim and Christian times.
Almeria is also known for astounding beaches. If you head a bit up the coast, you get to Cabo de Gata Nature Reserve where there are mesmerizing sand blown beaches, old desert landscape, and jaw-dropping cliffs towering above the glittering Mediterranean Sea.
This part of Almeria also offers incredible coastal hiking trails where you can walk from beach to beach across rocky, unforgiving hilltops. And if you enjoy hiking, you can even head up to the Almeria part of the Sierra Nevada National Park for spectacular views from El Chullo (2613m), Almeria’s highest peak.
2. Ljubljana, Slovenia
By Tom & Zi of Craving Adventure
Ljubljana probably sounds like an almost unpronounceable tongue-twister to some people, but it’s actually the capital city of Slovenia and a city that is well worth a visit.
Walking around in Ljubljana is a true feast for the eyes. For starters, the city is filled with unique and impressive architecture. It has a castle perched on top of a hill in the middle of the city. There’s also a river that cuts straight through the city center. And, then, there are the snow-capped mountains of the Julian Alps in the backdrop.
Ljubljana is a lively student city with a rich culture and history so there is always something to do — from outdoor concerts on the town square to art exhibitions in the beautiful Park Tivoli to food festivals alongside the river.
As for the food, there are enough traditional dishes to keep you eating for at least a week, and they are all delicious. Try some Kranjska klobasa or Struklji, and have a glass of Refosk wine with your dinner.
You can easily spend a long weekend exploring this small but packed city. In addition, there are heaps of other things to do around Ljubljana like visiting the mesmerizingly beautiful Lake Bled.
3. Split, Croatia
By Disha of Disha Discovers
One of the most underrated cities in Europe is the quaint and coastal city of Split, Croatia. This city is laid back with a small-town vibe and easy-going locals.
Whether you’re spending 2 days in Split or two weeks in Split, you’ll fall in love with it and want to return.
Split is located in central Dalmatia along the Adriatic Sea. Because of the location, it’s a great destination to visit any time of the year.
The city’s history dates back to Roman times and the heart of the city is Diocletian’s Palace which is over 1700 years old. The area surrounding the palace is filled with restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops.
Be sure to take a stroll along the seaside promenade known as Riva. It’s a pedestrian-only area that’s bustling with restaurants. It’s a great place to start your morning with a cup of coffee and a fun place to end your day with a cocktail.
Lastly, Split is the perfect base for you to explore more of Dalmatia. You can even take a day trip to another country — Bosnia and Herzegovina.
4. Baden-Baden, Germany
By Derek & Mike of Robe Trotting
Baden-Baden is a fantastic destination in Germany’s historic Black Forest that often goes overlooked by travelers.
The posh spa town was built on the site of ancient Roman ruins and features incredible thermal spas. One of them is Caracalla Thermae, a spa designed in the tradition of the old Roman baths. The atmosphere inside is pure relaxation with indoor and outdoor pools, jacuzzis, saunas, and spa services.
Baden-Baden is also home to one of the most opulent and historic casinos in all of Europe. Even if you don’t gamble, the casino is open for tours and is an interesting attraction in Baden-Baden. It’s located next to the Trinkhalle or Pump House, where thermal waters have been piped into the town for centuries.
It’s located near the end of Lichtentaler Allee, a historic promenade on the west bank of the River Oos. Along the scenic walkway, you can enjoy fountains and sculptures among over 300 types of trees and plants.
5. York, England
By Maja of Away With Maja
Located about halfway between London and Edinburgh, York is smaller than either capital city—and one of the most underrated cities in Europe.
Historic and charming, York will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time with its quaint, cobblestone streets and stunning architecture.
The Shambles is the oldest shopping street in Europe, and one of the most popular places in town. You can marvel at York Minster, walk the medieval City Walls that encircle the city, discover York’s Viking past at the Jorvik Viking Center, and seek out some of York’s hidden gems—there’s plenty to keep you busy in the city.
Most of the city center is pedestrianized, so it’s easy to get around on foot between the independent shops, historic pubs, and excellent restaurants.
York is also close to both the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, with the best scenery and walking opportunities in Yorkshire on the doorstep.
6. Innsbruck, Austria
By Renee of Dream Plan Experience
Picture this: a colorful array of historic buildings nestled at the base of the majestic Nordkette mountain range with a shimmering glacier river running through it. This is the picturesque city of Innsbruck.
Being surrounded by ski slopes during the winter and mountainous hiking biking trails during the summer, Innsbruck is a must-see destination for any adventurous traveler.
Not adventurous? No problem. This town has enough charm and history to capture anyone’s interest.
Visit Innsbruck’s Altstadt, or old town, which is chock-full of 13th to 14th century Baroque and Gothic architecture.
Wandering through the streets is a definite must. Look out for the Golden Roof, Cathedral of St. James and the Hofkirche. It’s also where you can enjoy a bite to eat, or a coffee in one of the beautiful cafes or restaurants to further admire the architecture and the people of Innsbruck.
Stroll down the pedestrian-only street — Marie Theresien Strasse. Stretching from the Triumphal Arch to the Altstadt, this is one of the liveliest streets in the city.
To take in the views of the city, take one of the several cable cars and funiculars. The Hungerburg Funicular is one of the best. Or perhaps a bit farther up and out of the city is the Innsbrucker Nordkette, a cable car ride that takes you up to Nordkette which is part of Austria’s largest natural park.
7. Kosice, Slovakia
By Jade of The Migrant Yogi
Kosice, Slovakia is one of the most beautiful and underrated cities in Europe. This small city in Eastern Slovakia is home to so many fun things to do and delicious foods to sample. For a delicious Slovak meal, head to Med Melina on the main street.
Getting to Kosice from Budapest or Bratislava is fairly easy and doable as a day trip or weekend getaway. Among the highlights of things to do in Kosice include St. Elisabeth’s Cathedral, the Easternmost Gothic church in Europe.
If you’re there during the warmer months, be sure to check out the Singing Fountain — a fountain that is synced to music and lights for a grand display.
The Eastern Slovak Museum showcases the Golden Treasure of Slovakia, boasting gold that was hidden from different countries during the world wars and subsequently rediscovered.
Jakab’s Palace and the State Theatre have gorgeous architecture to admire. The architecture and old Slovak buildings are worth a visit alone.
Kosice was named European Capital of Culture in 2013 and has seen a slight increase in tourism ever since. Residents here are super-friendly and welcoming to tourists, and most people under 40 will speak English.
8. Cadiz, Spain
By Joanna of Andalucia in My Pocket
Cadiz is the oldest city in Europe, but it is often overlooked by tourists who visit Andalucia. This makes a visit to Cadiz a very authentic Spanish experience where you can learn more about the local way of life.
Cadiz lies on a small island just off the mainland and it is divided into the old and the new town with two very different architectural styles.
Being an island, there are plenty of gorgeous beaches where you can sunbathe in Cadiz. The city also has a gorgeous promenade that separates the old city from the Atlantic Ocean, which is a perfect spot to watch the sunset or the sunrise from.
One thing that must be included on any Cadiz itinerary is a visit to the Cathedral. Also known as the “The Cathedral of the Americas,” it was built with money from the trade between Europe and the States. It’s also one of the few Cathedrals in the world that faces the sea. Also, its crypts are under sea level.
9. Wrocław, Poland
By Michelle of The Scrapbook of Life
A lesser-known gem in western Poland, Wroclaw (pronounced vrots-wahf) is a charming university city located along the Odra River. With an abundance of Gothic and baroque architecture, a lively atmosphere, and a unique quirkiness, this budget-friendly destination is certainly one to visit.
Wroclaw is home to over 300 bronze Dwarves hiding in plain sight all across the city. The best way to see Wroclaw is on a self-guided walking tour, using the Dwarves to find your way around. You can pick up a Dwarf-map in Wroclaw to help you find these friendly locals!
One of the best things to do in Wroclaw is to visit the Old Town. Bursting with colorful townhouses and cobbled streets, the Market Square (Rynek) is purely enchanting.
Wroclaw is particularly magical at Christmas when the Market Square comes to life with one of the prettiest Christmas Markets in Europe.
Dotted with cathedrals and churches, Cathedral Island (Ostrow Tumski) is another area to be explored. For a postcard-perfect photograph, go to Tumski Bridge and gaze down towards the spires.
If you are looking for panoramic views across Wroclaw, then visit the Mathematical Tower which is located at the top of the stunning Wroclaw University.
10. Przemysl, Poland
By Kamila of Kami and the Rest of the World
Przemysl, Poland is one of the most underrated cities in Europe. Located conveniently between Krakow and Lviv (Ukraine), many travelers go via Przemysl yet hardly anyone actually stops to see the city. Big mistake!
This is one of the oldest cities in Poland, dating back to the 8th century, and it is full of attractions. Przemysl is known as “little Lviv” and the resemblance between these two cities is really big.
You will be amazed by the beautiful art-nouveau architecture and the numerous churches with rich, decorative interiors.
Don’t miss the Clock Tower from the 18th century — the view from the top offers the best panorama of Przemysl and inside you can visit the unique and interesting Museum of Bells and Pipes.
Once you are done with sightseeing, relax at the charming and vibrant Market Square in one of its cafes.
If you have a car, be sure to visit the surroundings of Przemysl where you will find remnants of the fortress. At the beginning of the 20th century, this was the third-largest fortress in Europe.
At the end of your trip to Przemys,l stop at the local train station. It’s the most beautiful one in Poland.
11. Helsingør, Denmark
By Derek & Mike of Everything Copenhagen
Most people have heard the expression “there’s something rotten in Denmark,” from Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet. What many people aren’t aware of is that the scene of the famous play is located in a castle north of Copenhagen in the seaside city of Helsingør, Denmark. It’s a picturesque town on the Danish coastline and the home of Kronborg Castle, the setting of Hamlet.
During the summer months, the castle hosts Shakespearean actors who perform scenes from the famous play. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site that was constructed during Denmark’s Golden Age. The entire city helped the kingdom to control shipping lanes in and out of the Baltic Sea.
Other attractions in Helsingør include the Danish Maritime Museum, a weekend street food market, and Science Aquarium. Above all, the town is simply beautiful with cobblestone streets and colorful medieval houses. It’s a quintessentially Danish destination and easy to reach from Copenhagen at only about one hour north of the Danish capital.
12. Ghent, Belgium
By Cecilie of Worldwide Walkers
Ghent is one of the lesser-known cities you can visit in Europe. It’s a beautiful and historical city located perfectly in the middle of Belgium, yet it’s often overlooked by the more popular Bruges and Brussels.
There are many things to do in Ghent. You can visit the Gravensteen Castle, go up to Belgium’s tallest belfry for beautiful city views, or go see the famous altarpiece in Saint Bavo’s Cathedral.
You can see a lot with just one day in Ghent, however, you’ll need a full weekend to really appreciate this beautiful city. Ghent is full of interesting history but it’s also a very modern city, which kind of makes it the perfect travel destination.
You can go shopping, eat in many international restaurants, and explore the thriving bar scene. You won’t get bored on a trip to Ghent.
It’s such a beautiful city full of canals, cobblestones, and old historical buildings. Ghent is a classic Western European city but it’s not very visited by tourists, which makes it the perfect destination for those looking to escape the crowds.
13. San Marino
By Pamela of The Directionally Challenged Traveler
An amazing underrated city in Europe is the tiny micro-country (and city) of San Marino. It boasts breathtaking views of the Italian countryside while being home to an impressive castle. Breakaway from the crowds of Europe, and travel to San Marino.
The first thing you’ll notice about San Marino is the towering castle on the peak of Monte Titano. There are three towers looming over the city- dating back to the 11th century!
The First Tower, Guaita is the oldest tower built in the 11th century and most famous. The Second Tower, Cesta, is on the highest peak and is home to a museum holding over 1500 weapons dating back to the Medieval Era. The Montale, the third tower, is on the smallest summit and is not open to the public.
There are also plenty of museums to intrigue you. The National Museum dives into the rich history of San Marino, the beautiful Basilica de San Marino is a step back in time, or for travelers who prefer more unusual items – visit the Torture Museum.
No matter what you decide to see in San Marino, you’ll be glad you visited this hidden gem in Europe.
14. Kastoria, Greece
By Chrysoula of Greece Travel Ideas
Kastoria is situated in northern Greece in the region of Western Macedonia and it’s also one of the most underrated cities in Europe.
The city is in a dramatic setting as it sits on a promontory on the western shore of Lake Orestiadia, surrounded by limestone mountains. The lake is rich in birdlife including pelicans and herons and there are boats to hire for exploring.
Kastoria is well known for its beautiful Byzantine churches, like the triple-aisled Ayios Stefanos, its fur trade, and excellent fresh fish.
There are also unusual museums including the Folklore Museum, the Wax Museum, and, Silversmithing Museum. A fun way to explore the area is by bike.
You can also visit the creatively lit Cave of the Dragon (Spilia tou Drakou) and the Archaeological site of Dispilo to visit. In the evening, there are lakeside restaurants for relaxing over an excellent fish dish.
If you are planning a summer visit, the Nestoria Festival is a seven-day music festival on the banks of the Aliakmon River. The Ragoutsaria Festival in the winter has pagan roots and is a celebration of traditional dancing accompanied by brass bands.
If you are visiting in the winter, the Vitsi Ski Centre is popular and perfect for all ages and abilities.
15. Graz, Austria
By Lori of Travlin Mad
If you’re looking to add some lesser-known but equally brilliant destinations to your Europe bucket list, the second-largest city in Austria deserves a top spot!
The city of Graz in southern Austria is an absolute must-see. This Austrian city is the capital of Styria, the picturesque region of the country known as The Green Heart of Austria for its rolling hills, lush vineyards, and scenic countryside.
The historic center of Graz is itself a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its unique blend of architectural influences from around the German-speaking world, Mediterranean and Balkans. One look around however and it’s quite clear this is a modern city dressed up in Gothic and Baroque style.
Graz is known for its culinary scene, and several times a year there are interesting food festivals celebrating local chefs and cuisine.
The stately Schloss Eggenberg at the edge of town is also a UNESCO site and a highlight of any trip. And if you’re a fan of Graz’s most famous son, Arnold Schwarzenegger, there is a fun museum highlighting his life and achievements in fitness and film.
Graz is one of the most unique and underrated cities in Europe that is worth a visit!
16. Lviv, Ukraine
By Megan of Packing Up the Pieces
Only a few hours from the border of Poland, the charming city of Lviv, Ukraine still remains a hidden gem. This bustling and underrated city offers some incredible highlights that rival those of more commonly visited European cultural metropolises.
Lviv has a stunning Opera House, green leafy parks, and a slick tram system that runs through the picturesque streets.
Lviv is known as the “City of Lions,” and it’s easy to walk down any street and see the proud animal carved into a fountain, or making an appearance on a park bench.
The city is a hodgepodge of diverse cultures, and while wandering along the cobblestone streets, it’s possible to visit an Armenian Quarter and an Old Jewish Quarter, just to name a few.
Not only have these cultures influenced the city, but also, Lviv’s delicious food scene. Lviv is one of Europe’s best coffee destinations with over 600 cozy cafes, many of which roast their own beans and incorporate brewing methods from the east.
With funky street art, beautiful promenades, unique flea markets, and a melting pot of cultures and customs, Lviv is one European city that you don’t want to miss.
17. Bordeaux, France
By Victoria of Guide Your Travel
Bordeaux is primarily known for its world-class wine but is often overlooked by tourists choosing a holiday destination in France. It’s one of the best underrated cities in Europe.
The city actually has a lot to offer and is a fantastic place to go for those who love culture, sightseeing, and, of course, incredible wines and cuisine.
The old town of Bordeaux is stunningly beautiful with its historical architecture and impressive churches. Bordeaux is dotted by famous landmarks like La Grosse Cloche, Porte Cailhau, La Esplanade des Quinconces or the large Bordeaux Cathedral.
Hidden in the many small sidestreets are little plazas with cafes and typical French bakeries. Make sure you try Cannelé while you are in Bordeaux, a little rum-flavored cake that the city is known for.
Bordeaux is all about sightseeing and experiencing French culture. If you’re coming to the area to try wine, Saint-Émilion is the best place to go. This little village sits in the countries-side a little outside of the city and is home to some of the best wines in the world. Come here for wine tastings or a tour around the vineyards where you’ll learn all about the manufacturing process.
18. Matera, Italy
By Margherita of The Crowded Planet
With its scenic hilltop location and millenary history, Matera is an unmissable stop on any tour of Southern Italy.
The town is one of the oldest inhabited cities on the planet. Ever since the Paleolithic period, people lived in its network of calcareous caves. Over the years, these simple dwellings turned into cave homes which now make up the two Sassi districts, the city’s claim to fame and the main thing to do in Matera.
The Sassi of Matera make up most of the historic center of the city and are a pleasure to wander around, between quaint backstreets, picturesque squares, cave churches, and viewpoints to get a bird’s eye view of the city.
If you have a car, you can visit the Parco della Murgia Materana. This is a protected nature reserve just a 10 minute drive from Matera where you could spend a few hours hiking, exploring cave churches, and enjoying the best views over Matera.
If you want to explore the area more, head to the Puglia region. This is a real treasure trove of cute whitewashed villages and beautiful beaches.
19. Tbilisi, Georgia
By Nate of Travel Lemming
Though quickly gaining popularity with backpackers, digital nomads, and savvy travelers, Tbilisi, Georgia remains one of the best underrated cities in Europe.
Tbilisi has gained popularity owing to its affordable prices, ancient history, and colorful funky streets. National Geographic even recently called it “the world’s most bohemian city.”
One favorite activity is strolling Old Tbilisi’s cobblestone streets before taking a cable car to the top of the hill overlooking the city to take in the views alongside the famous Mother of Georgia statue.
Tbilisi’s central location also makes for a great launching pad to explore the many other destinations in Georgia as part of day trips. Take a day trip to taste some wine in the rolling hills of Kakheti, to marvel at stunning monasteries in Ananuri, or explore the ancient cliff dwellings outside Gori.
All these incredible destinations are within reach of the city and will give you enough time to return and grab dinner in town. Speaking of food, be sure to try the local khinkali, a type of dumping that comes stuffed with everything from mushrooms to meat.
Whatever you do, just be sure to get to Tbilisi fast before the word gets out.
20. Bergen, Norway
By Julia of The Cure for Curiosity
While Bergen is an amazing city and the second biggest city in Norway, it is often overlooked by some of its more famous neighbors, like Oslo, Stockholm, or Copenhagen. Don’t be fooled by that.
Bergen has a lot to offer and it’s one of the most charming underrated cities in Europe. Not to mention that the journey to Bergen is sure to offer fantastic views as it is surrounded by stunning fjords and mountains.
You’ll want to spend two days in Bergen (or more) to get a feel for the city and to check out the main sights. Make sure to explore the colorful wooden houses of Bryggen, take the Floibanen Funicular up to the top of Floyen Mountain for awe-inspiring panoramic views, and to visit the fjords that the city sits within.
There are also plenty of other amazing things to do in this picturesque waterfront city. Discover Market Square, Bergenhus Fortress Museum, Gamlehaugen – the Royal residence, or even Mount Ulriken – the tallest mountain in Bergen.
Or perhaps you’re more interested in wandering the narrow passages and staircases of the residential part of Bergen as it climbs into the surrounding hillsides.
No matter what your interest, Bergen is a great destination to get a bit off the common tourist path through Europe.
21. Dundee, Scotland
By Anuradha of Country Hopping Couple
Located on the Tay Estuary, Dundee is the fourth largest city in Scotland. While it is a popular city amongst locals, tourism is fairly less compared to other cities in Scotland.
Having said that, Dundee is certainly an emerging city known for its contributions in scientific research, video games, and biomedical technology. Owing to this, in 2014, Dundee became the UK’s first UNESCO City of Design.
On-road, Dundee is only 56 miles away from Edinburgh. There are frequent coaches and train services between the cities, making Dundee an ideal day trip or weekend destination from Edinburgh.
A visit to this compact waterfront city is sure to take you by a surprise. There are a plethora of museums and science centers in Dundee, many of them being free attractions.
Relatively new, but becoming a popular attraction is the V&A Museum, which is a centerpiece of the city’s waterfront development. McManus Art Gallery and Museum is yet another free attraction that houses a stunning collection of arts and natural history.
Not a fan of visiting museums? Take a walk up to Dundee Law, a beautiful volcanic hill offering sweeping views of the city and Tay Bridge. Whether you want to visit Dundee on a day trip or a weekend, you won’t be disappointed!
Which one of these underrated cities in Europe are you most excited to visit? Let me know in the comments below!
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Disha Smith is the founder of Disha Discovers. She quit her job in 2017 to travel the world to explore new cultures and experience new adventures. She has since been to 95+ countries and counting and has lived in South Africa, Thailand, Croatia, and Australia. She has done all kinds of travel ranging from luxury to budget backpacking, and her mission is to inspire others to discover their own sense of adventure and to help them plan a life full of meaningful experiences through travel.