Although Europe’s more well-known towns boast a variety of iconic landmarks and a rich history, venturing off the beaten path allows visitors to see a different aspect of the continent. In these less-travelled destinations, explore unspoiled natural sites, walk antique castles and archaeological treasures, and learn about history through people’s eyes. This post will introduce you to the most underrated cities in Europe.
Are you ready to visit cities that have remained largely unaffected by tourism? With these 27 underestimated European cities, you can get to know the heart of the place.
1- Ghent, Belgium
The small medieval city of Ghent, with its cobblestone lanes and fairytale beauty, is sometimes ignored by visitors rushing to Bruges. Instead, travellers discover Ghent’s picturesque canal-side architecture, edgy art culture, and eccentric bars less than a 25-minute train ride away from its dominating neighbour. You can go to Gravesteen (the castle), take a boat tour of the central district, climb the Belfry for panoramic views on a clear day, or go to one of the well-constructed museums. Of course, renting a bike and touring the city’s vivid street art is must-do.
2- Liverpool, England
Liverpool is a city rich in culture, history, and art. The city’s residents are among the friendliest on the planet; you’ll constantly see a smile here. There are various things to see and do in the city, such as visiting the UNESCO World Heritage sites and seeing the famed royal liver building. Visit the Liverpool Museum and the Albert Dock while you’re there. There’s something for everyone in this region, with the Tate Gallery, the Maritime Museum, and the Beatles Story.
If you enjoy music, Mathew St is a must-visit. Almost every night of the week, live musicians perform here, and it is, of course, home to the famed Cavern Club!
It’s pretty simple to get here and about. With the John Lennon International Airport just outside of the city and excellent metro train connections throughout the area, Liverpool is a terrific place to visit. See why Rough Guides named this city one of the best in the world to visit; you will not be disappointed! So now you know why Liverpool is one of the most underrated cities in Europe.
3- Zadar, Croatia
The lesser-known Croatian destination of Zadar, located on the country’s northern Dalmatian Coast, is a gem worth discovering. Fresh fish is served at every meal, and the swoon-worthy background of the Adriatic Sea to the west and the Velebit mountain range to the east is a highlight of every journey here.
Zadar, rich in history and home to Roman and Venetian remains, is the ideal starting place for seeing adjacent Eastern European cities and islands with beautiful beaches or heading north to walk in awe-inspiring national parks with waterfalls.
You’ll feel transported back in time when strolling around Zadar’s ancient town, one of the most beautiful destinations in Croatia. Learn about the long-running heritage of glass-blowing in the region by visiting St. Mary’s Church, the Cathedral of St. Anastasia, the Church of St. Donatus, and the Museum of Ancient Glass.
Explore the Velebit Nature Park’s Zrmanja and Krupa rivers on a kayak safari over clean waters, navigating rapids and marvelling at waterfalls throughout the canyon. Visit the Royal Vineyards in the city’s hills for a wine tasting experience, where you’ll sip and enjoy pairings while admiring the panoramic views of Zadar below.
4- Ronda, Spain
Ronda is the largest of Andalusia’s many ‘pueblos blancos,’ and its peculiar landscape makes it one of Europe’s most attractive cities. A wide, steep gorge separates the old and new cities, and the white-washed buildings teeter atop the two rocky forms. It’s a bit of a hidden treasure in Spain, and there aren’t many usual tourist attractions, but if you’re on the Costa del Sol, Ronda is definitely worth a day trip. The area produces some delectable wines, and the rustic local restaurants serve superb cuisine. You may go to one of Spain’s oldest bullfighting rings, try rock climbing in the city’s famous gorge, or simply walk around and explore.
Ronda is about an hour’s drive from Malaga and is well worth a visit if you enjoy tranquil cities with stunning scenery.
5- Koper, Slovenia
The city of Koper, located on Slovenia’s Adriatic Coast and sandwiched between Croatia and Italy, is sometimes overlooked in favour of Piran. This historic port town’s rich history and Venetian influence are well worth a visit, and without the crowds to boot.
Tito Square is a good place to start in Koper since you can see the Cathedral of St. Mary’s Assumption, the Praetorian Palace, and climb the Bell Tower stairs for spectacular views. Wander around the picturesque old town, shop on Shoemaker Street, sip cocktails by the harbour, and sample local delicacies at Carpaccio Square’s open-air farmer and flea markets.
Koper is an excellent starting point for visiting the nearby communities and natural wonders. Discover Slovenia’s underground in the Postojna Caves, a natural wonder created by the Pivka River 45 minutes northeast of the city. The spectacular stalactites of this five-kilometre cave system will leave you speechless.
A white water rafting expedition on the well-known Soca River will get your adrenaline pounding. The vibrant green seas, around two hours from Koper, are waiting to push you out of your comfort zone as you paddle through unspoilt nature.
6- Santiago de Compostela, Spain
The Camino de Santiago ends in the Spanish city of Galicia, but most pilgrims just stay for a day or two to rest before continuing on or returning home. However, whether you come as part of a Camino or just spend a few days in the city on your own, the city is lovely and interesting enough to warrant at least two-three days.
In the city’s church, you may see St. James’ tomb. Sit in the square in front of the cathedral and people-watch as pilgrims arrive in the city after finishing their treks if you have time. This is one of Europe’s most spiritual cities, and everyone interested in religious tourism should pay it a visit.
7- Kazimierz Dolny, Poland
Warsaw and Kraków are arguably the first destinations that come to mind for most international travellers when they think about Poland. There is, however, a small village situated between both towns that are equally beautiful but do not draw the same throngs. With a population of only 3,500 people, Kazimierz Dolny has largely escaped European tourism’s notice. It is without a doubt one of Europe’s best-kept secrets.
If you enjoy art, Kazimierz Dolny is the place to be. The streets are like a never-ending art show. Art galleries can be found on almost every street, where painters and artists gladly set up shops to sell their work. The homes and shops that line these streets are similarly bold and brilliant. As a result of these factors, Kazimierz Dolny has earned a reputation as one of Central Europe’s most important art centres.
On a sad note, the Holocaust Memorial Wall may be found at Kazimierz Dolny. It’s necessary to remember both the good and the negative in this town’s long history. Just a short walk from the city centre is the Holocaust Memorial Wall, a site of introspection and contemplation. Now you know why Kazimierz Dolny is one of the most underrated cities in Europe.
8- Sofia, Bulgaria
Do you want to go to a city that is located at the base of the famed ski peak Vitosha? Sofia is Bulgaria’s laid-back, culture-filled city, which is often neglected. The ultimate luxury hotel InterContinental Sofia enables tourists fully immerse themselves in this area, with beautiful views of Narodno Sabranie Square and Alexandar Nevski Cathedral.
Sofia is an excellent city for anyone interested in learning about both ancient Roman and socialist history in one location. Standing in the largo, you may see antique Roman houses, a Turkish mosque, a Bulgarian Orthodox church, and a Social Classicist complex all in one shot.
9- Salzburg, Austria
Salzburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its Gothic and Baroque architecture, as well as its excellent cuisine, art, and music scenes—it was the birthplace of Mozart and the setting for The Sound of Music.
After a day of touring the city’s architecture, retire to K+K am Waagplatz for a delicious meal. And don’t worry about indulging in all of the desserts; you’ll work it off the next morning hiking to Untersberg, a beautiful nature area with various hiking trails offering spectacular views of Salzburg. The Schloss Mönchstein Hotel is located in the centre of the city. The historic Mullner Church and the Museum of Natural History are both within walking distance of the five-star hotel.
10- Valencia, Spain
Valencia is a beautiful place to visit. It is a city nestled on Spain’s east coast with large lengths of golden beach just a 15-minute drive from the city centre. With its cathedral, cobblestone streets, and market square, the city centre is a lovely example of a picturesque, ancient European city. Yet, throughout the city, there are contemporary and futuristic structures, such as the ‘Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias,’ which is a remarkable specimen of modern architecture.
The city is alive with activity, and you can spend hours people-watching from one of the many cafes and restaurants that line the main square. Exploring the parks and playgrounds in the Turia riverbed, sitting on Malvarrosa beach, and eating wonderful paella in the city were some of our favourite things to do. Viva Valencia!
Still, looking for the most underrated cities in Europe? Here are a lot more most underrated cities in Europe to visit!
11- Ljubljana, Slovenia
Slovenia is left out a little. Tourists prefer to visit Croatia, Italy, or even Austria, therefore it is frequently ignored. Nonetheless, the country appears to be straight out of a fairy tale. And if you’re visiting Slovenia, you must stop at the city’s lovely capital.
Because the architectural works of Joe Plenik are a big part of why the city is such a dreamscape, make sure to see as many of his buildings and projects as you can while you’re here.
If you’re visiting Slovenia in the winter, make sure to visit the quaint Ljubljana Christmas Market.
12- Porto, Portugal
Porto is Portugal’s second-largest city, and although being overshadowed by Lisbon in terms of popularity, it has a charm and beauty that is well worth discovering. The Douro River divides it in two, with colourful tiled and painted buildings covering the hills on one side and the Port Wine Cellars on the other.
The views from the Dom Luis Bridge, which connects the two, are breathtaking to say the least. Apart from touring the Port cellars and tasting the wine, you can also go to the Livraria Lello bookstore, which is supposed to have inspired J K Rowling while she was living there, and explore the old town with its lovely blue and white tiled churches. Don’t forget to sample the Francesinha, which is similar to a croque-monsieur in Portugal and was invented in Porto.
13- Figeac, France
Figeac is one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval towns, despite its underappreciation. The town’s Wikipedia page only has roughly 50 words on it, demonstrating its secrecy.
Figeac is a peaceful, charming town that is possibly the best representation of medieval life. In addition, it is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets.
A bright combination of timber and stone buildings blends into the surrounding scenery in Figeac. The charming community is surrounded by gently sloping hills and canals, providing a raw and unadulterated sense of the French countryside. Figeac is a place where history and nature coexist together.
The lack of a single or two major features that attract people is what makes this town intriguing and unique. In fact, only a handful of TripAdvisor’s “Things to Do” have received any feedback. Rather than luring visitors with specific sights and activities, the irresistible lure of Figeac is its timeless beauty. Now you know why Figeac is one of the most underrated cities in Europe.
14- Dresden, Germany
Dresden, known as the “Florence of the North” because of its beauty, played a tragic and essential role in World War II. The city was practically destroyed as a result of the Allied battle, and almost all of the buildings in the Altstadt were fully rebuilt beginning in the 1990s. With dozens of stunning Dresden photo sites to enjoy and a Kurt Vonnegut Dresden tour to learn about the city’s history, you can enjoy the city’s splendour from both sides of the Elbe River.
Since this area of the city escaped much of the war’s devastation, you can learn about living in Dresden Neustadt, where you can also admire authentic Baroque buildings.
While German tourists go to Dresden, there aren’t enough Americans, Brits, or Canadians to enjoy the city.
15- Belgrade, Serbia
Belgrade, located on the border between the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, is a fascinating mix of Turkish and Baroque architecture. There are plenty of fantastic outdoor adventures to be had at the junction of the Danube and Sava rivers, as well as miles of riverfront promenades to enjoy. This nearly-perfect urban retreat is the one city in Europe that gets short shrift.
Belgrade, one of Europe’s oldest towns and situated at the confluence of two rivers, is known as the “city that never sleeps.” Belgrade is noted for its floating lounges, known as splavovi, which are anchored along the Danube and Sava rivers throughout the summer and are one of the most undervalued towns for nightlife. Each splavovi has its own musical genre, and they don’t just happen on weekends. Belgrade also has an ancient fortification perched above a cliff that was established around 535 BC.
16- San Marino, San Marino
Do you want to wander along winding cobblestone streets and soak up the timeless European charm? San Marino is the place to go.
The Italian Peninsula was a politically fractured agglomeration of states prior to the 19th century. Since the Roman Empire, the boot-shaped landmass had not been united. Giuseppe Garibaldi and other renowned revolutionaries did not attempt to combine these republics under the Kingdom of Italy until the 1800s. Only a few states remained independent once the dust had settled and unification had been generally achieved. One of them was San Marino.
San Marino has also evaded the massive tourism that has afflicted much of Italy in recent years. Here are some of the reasons why you should visit San Marino, one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. Now you know why San Marino is one of the most underrated cities in Europe.
Still, looking for the most underrated cities in Europe? No worries! Keep reading!
17- Brasov, Romania
If you are planning a trip to Romania, you must include Brasov on your itinerary. The Teutonic Knights founded the city in 1211, and it is peppered with historic buildings of remarkable beauty and eye-catching architecture. The city has a unique allure because it is situated in a lovely natural setting, in Transylvania, at the foot of Mount Tampa. Brasov is fairly easy to reach, regardless of where you are coming from in Romania, due to its central location. The Council Square, the Black Church, the Schei district, Catherine’s Gate, St. Nicholas Church, the first Romanian school, and, of course, the famed Rope Street, one of the world’s smallest streets, must all be visited once you arrive.
Climbing Mount Tampa and admiring the city from the top is also important. I guarantee that the vista will take your breath away. If you like vampire stories, you must go to Bran Castle, or Dracula as it is known globally, which is about an hour away from Brasov.
18- Bremen, Germany
Are you looking for a stunning German city to visit? Then travel to Bremen, Germany’s northernmost city. Many people consider Bremen to be a small town, despite the fact that it is one of Germany’s largest and most beautiful cities, with a population of over 500,000 people.
Bremen’s old town, a well-preserved medieval history section, is one of the best sites to visit. The houses are old and colourful, the streets are narrow and full of life with lovely cafes, and the streets are sometimes too narrow for a stroller to fit through.
The market square is another tourist attraction (though it is also popular among locals), where you can view the town hall and the Roland Statue (both UNESCO World Heritage Sites), as well as touch the feet of the Bremen Town Musicians (maybe you recall the world-famous folk tale about them?)
The Schlachte is the greatest spot to eat, with several restaurants and cafes lined up along the Weser River.
After a few days in Bremen (preferably some bright days), you’ll agree that this city is a sight to behold and a must-see destination in Germany!
19- Kutná Hora, Czech Republic
Because of all the silver unearthed in the ground, Kutná Hora became one of the most significant cities in Central Europe in the 13th century. Much of the cash generated by the mining sector was spent on the enormous structures that can still be seen today. Despite its small size, the historic centre is a treasure of the Czech Republic.
Churches are the two most important structures, which are recognized as World Heritage Sites jointly. The massive Church of St Barbara boasts wonderful Gothic-style paintings on its walls and ceilings, whereas the Cathedral of Our Lady at Sedlec has a more relaxed Baroque appearance.
Kutná Hora is a popular day trip from Prague because it is only 50 minutes away by train. If you remain overnight, though, you’ll be rewarded with a lovely medieval town centre free of tourists. Now you know why Kutná Hora is one of the most underrated cities in Europe.
20- Rotterdam, the Netherlands
If you haven’t visited Rotterdam, the Netherlands’ second-largest city, you should add it to your bucket list. Prepare to visit one of Europe’s most inventive and exciting cities.
Its architectural scene draws visitors from all over the world who spend the day admiring outstanding examples of contemporary buildings.
Visit Piet Blom’s iconic cubic houses, wander through the Markthal, a mind-blowing covered food market where you can get fresh and tasty delicacies from all over the world, and walk along the famed Erasmusbrug.
After being extensively devastated during WWII, the entire city is currently undergoing an exciting surge of modernity and innovation, transforming into a true magnet for young and stylish travellers looking for inspiring off-the-beaten-path destinations.
Still, looking for the most underrated cities in Europe? Here are a few more fascinating cities.
21- Odesa, Ukraine
(Unfortunately, at the time of writing this post, Ukraine has been brutally invaded by Putin’s Russia. Our prayers and thoughts are with all brave Ukrainians who are defending their gorgeous nation. Hopefully, the war will end soon and we all get to visit Odesa and other underrated Ukrainian cities.)
Beautiful churches, amazing nineteenth-century architecture, and a charming shoreline characterize this lovely Black Sea city. It also boasts one of Europe’s most gorgeous opera houses. People who only want to visit Kyiv and go on frequently ignore Odesa. Nonetheless, this city is a fantastic destination to spend a few days relaxing by the sea. It’s also an excellent base for visiting Moldova’s Transnistria.
Wandering around Prizov Market, walking Prymorskyi Boulevard, and witnessing the Odesa Passage are some of the most popular activities among visitors.
22- Malmö, Sweden
Malmö, Sweden’s seaside metropolis, is one of the most interesting places in the country, despite being overshadowed by Stockholm and Gothenburg. Malmö is a good choice for tourists who wish to avoid the tourist hordes in Scandinavia, with trendy eateries on every corner and a mood that feels hipster and Brooklyn-esque (yet being unmistakably Swedish).
The best shopping in the area may be found in the downtown district. Blomster & Sma Ting is a place where you may find kitschy knickknacks, flowers, and interior design. Then stop by Malmö Saluhall for a coffee or lunch while you browse the open-market stalls for artisan-made art, ceramics, and gifts.
Malmö is also a foodie’s dream come true. Even non-vegans delighted in the sumptuous meals served by The Raw Kitchen Malmö, which uses solely raw foods. We recommend the renowned Vollmers, a two-Michelin-star restaurant specializing in traditional Scandinavian cuisine, for a more formal meal.
For convenience (it’s located across from the train station!) and comfort, stay at Elite Hotel Residens, or visit its nearby sister hotel, Elite Hotel Savoy, which features the comfort-food restaurant Savoy Grille. Now you know why Malmö is one of the most underrated cities in Europe.
23- Innsbruck, Austria
Do you enjoy hiking and other outdoor activities? Innsbruck is the best European adventure and recreation destination all year. The town has twice hosted the Winter Olympic Games (in 1964 and 1976). Innsbruck is situated in a unique setting where the mountains meet the valley, giving the city a sense of oneness with nature.
24- Perast, Montenegro
Are you looking for something new to add to your Europe bucket list? Take a look at this.
Perast is a little beach village located just north of Kotor, one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. It’s inexpensive, charming, and appears to be unspoiled. As a result, it is one of the top European hidden jewels to see in 2022.
Perast was a vital port between the Ottoman Empire and the Venetian Republic during the 15th and 18th centuries. With only 274 residents and one main street, it’s difficult to believe this small hamlet was once at the crossroads of these enormous empires.
Perast’s potpourri of churches, royal palaces, and adjacent islets have attracted travellers in recent years.
Perast arguably has the most churches per population in the world, with 16 in total. St. Nikola Church, a Baroque masterpiece from the 17th century, is the most imposing of them all. The town is also flanked by beautiful mountains that look out over the bay. It’s no surprise that Perast is one of Europe’s most underestimated cities to visit, with so much landscape and charm.
25- Ohrid, North Macedonia
Macedonia would be absent from any list of Europe’s top hidden gems if it weren’t mentioned (now called North Macedonia as of 2019). Ohrid, in the country’s western region, is an undervalued place that deserves to be on your bucket list. This is why.
This city, located on the banks of Lake Ohrid, is rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. Ohrid is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the “Jerusalem of the Balkans,” with antique streets, churches, and a medieval castle, and is known as the “Jerusalem of the Balkans.” Ohrid is also known as the “Pearl of North Macedonia.” Take a stroll through the cobblestone streets, which offer views of the lake and surrounding landscapes, and you’ll wonder how Ohrid has managed to stay off the tourist radar for so long.
Still, looking for the most underrated cities in Europe? We got you covered with two more cities!
26- Mdina, Malta
Standing in Mdina’s streets gives the impression of being in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East all at once.
For more than 2,700 years, this magnificent city has been a cherished fortification. Many great empires, including the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Byzantines, and Normans, affected its architecture. Today, it is without a doubt one of Europe’s best-kept secrets.
Every history and architecture buff should pay a visit to Mdina’s walled city. St. Paul’s Cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century, is unquestionably the most impressive structure in town. Much of the architecture we see now was created in the late 1600s in the Baroque style.
If you’re a fan of Game of Thrones, Mdina should be on your bucket list as well. For King’s Landing and the Red Keep, the Mdina Gate and Fort were utilized as filming sites.
Mdina’s quiet, narrow lanes and the ageless charm that lingers in the air really wowed me. Mdina’s streets become lamp-lit and strangely silent at night, earning it the moniker “the Silent City.”
Now you know why Mdina is one of the most underrated cities in Europe.
27- Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Mostar is one of Bosnia’s most popular tourist destinations, because of its stunning natural beauty, architecture, and, of course, the Stari Most, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is brimming with traditional Ottoman architecture, including restaurants, market stalls, mosques, and other ancient structures. It is also surrounded by beautiful scenery that begs to be explored. We explore the best places to visit and things to do in and around Mostar.
The Stari Most, or ‘Old Bridge,’ is one of Mostar’s and Bosnia’s most iconic landmarks. The Ottomans built the bridge in the 16th century, and it is a fine example of Islamic design and engineering. It runs through the heart of Mostar’s historic Old Town, crossing the magnificent turquoise Neretva River. The bridge was demolished by Croat forces during the civil war, but it has since been reconstructed to its original specifications. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, shortly after it was renovated, and it draws thousands of tourists to Mostar each year.
15 thoughts on “Top 25 Most Underrated Cities in Europe”
Beautiful picture. I’m wanting to do Italy in December this year. Are there any places in Italy that have warm weather in December? At least 75 degrees?
Very interesting list. I would love to visit all of these places. I must say that I was surprised to see Salzburg on the list, especially since it’s Mozart’s birthplace and the location for “The Sound of Music.” I hope to visit there and Vienna one of these days.
It was actually a surprise for me to see not many people know about Salzburg.
Hopefully you get to visit all of these cities and a lot more! 🙂
Thank you very much for your comment.
I’ve heard of a lot of these! Did you know Ljubana went completely car-free?
No way! That’s mind blowing! I’m gonna check it out now! Thanks for sharing!
Fun fact: Innsbruck wasn’t supposed to host the Olympics twice in such a short span of time. The 1976 Winter Olympics were originally awarded to Denver, Colorado, USA, but Denver’s ability to host the Olympics was contingent on a bunch of government-funded infrastructure projects. The people were against spending all that money, the bills authorizing those projects did not pass, and Denver withdrew its bid. The IOC hastily set up an Olympics in Innsbruck, since they had hosted it recently and the venues were mostly already there. The USA was given the next Winter Olympics after that, but in a different part of the country (Lake Placid, New York, which had also hosted in 1932).
Wow, interesting. I had no idea about that,
Thank you so much for sharing!
All are worthy of the list. Thanks for putting this information together and adding two more cities as a bonus.
My pleasure. Thank you for taking the time to read it and your comment! 🙂
I’ve visited exactly one of the above; Ronda. I loved it, so scenic with the Roman bridge. Oldest bull ring in Spain. Great town.
That is fantastic. Hopefully you get to visit more cities from this list in near future.
Thank you very much for your comment.
Thanks for the great list!
Great post reflecting a lot of research and in a format that is very useful for us contemplating a return to Europe.
Glad you liked the post.
Thank you very much for your comment.