Europe has always been my favorite continent, likely due to my fascination with Greek mythology and English monarchs. Luckily, I’ve been able to visit many of my dream destinations, like Paris and Rome, while studying abroad.
However, when you travel to new countries, you realize how much you didn’t know. While abroad, I discovered quite a few cities and towns I’d never even heard of. Now that I’m so immersed in the travel world, I always read stories about places that only garnered brief mentions in my history book. I’ve since compiled a list of some of the top underrated European cities, based on my own experience of visiting or reading about these places.
Tips for Planning a Multi-City European Trip
First, here are some travel tips in case this list inspires you to plan your own multi-city European tour. It can be tricky to plan a multi-city European trip, but it’s definitely possible with some thought.
Personally, I would plan on creating a bit of a home base. Whether you choose one area for a few months at a time or even for a year, it’s nice to have somewhere to store your things and return to.
I’d also consider the many transportation options, from planes to rental cars to trains. As a student, I flew a lot, but I’d like to experience some more train travel or even a road trip to enjoy the countryside in between the bigger cities.
I would also consider how long you plan on spending in different places that you visit. For me, I would ideally have at least a week in each place. I know for a fact I’d want a good week or more in each of the cities listed below.
Top Underrated Cities in Europe to Visit
Since half of my family is Irish-American, I knew I’d have to visit the country at least once while studying in Spain. I stayed with a friend who was studying abroad there, and we split our time among Cork, Galway, and Inishmore. Since we packed three places in a four-day weekend, I really only got a chance to see Cork briefly one morning and a few times at night. I’d love to go back and really explore the city. I didn’t even get a chance to see the Blarney Castle when I was there the first time.
I have a deep love for all things Spanish, especially when it comes to the country’s Arab history. I visited Cordoba because I’d been reading a book set during the Caliphate of Cordoba and wanted to get as close to the source as possible. The whole city is painted in this warm, mustard yellow color, and it feels like a smaller place than it is. It also has my favorite example of Islamic architecture in the whole country, the Mezquita-Catedral.
If you’re a Greek mythology lover like I was while growing up, you need to visit Delphi. I found the nearby town to be incredibly charming, while the actual archaeological site, where ancient Greek heroes and kings went for advice, is absolutely surreal. While a lot of the sites in Athens are now mixed with more modern buildings and settings, Delphi still sits alone along the side of Mt. Parnassus.
Kassel made my list last year when I finished reading Kate Forsyth’s “The Wild Girl”. It’s where the Grimm brothers called home for most of their lives, though I don’t recall it ever appearing in all the travel reading I’ve done. I’d love to visit the places the author mentions in her book and discover new areas on my own. Of course, the Herkules Monument alone deserves a visit!
I went to Lisbon on a complete whim with college friends, and we had no expectations beyond getting to visit a new city. It’s still one of my favorite trips despite the fact that I broke two pairs of shoes, our tram broke down midway up a hill, and I found out I was allergic to bees. That’s just how charming this pastel-colored city was, and I want to go back and properly enjoy it.
Slovenia kept popping up on my Pinterest feed, and the pictures were so gorgeous that I started doing a little more research into the country. Ljubljana is the capital city of Slovenia, but with only 300,000 residents, it feels more intimate. With reddish roofs and stone pathways, it seems like a great place on its own and also as a good central point for visiting nearby attractions like Lake Bled.
Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mostar is another place that kept popping up on Pinterest, particularly photos of the Stari Most, a bridge with history dating back to the 1700s. I admittedly have not studied Eastern Europe or the Balkans nearly as much as I could have. I’d like the chance to go and not only see the beautiful Ottoman quarter but also learn more about Bosnia and Herzegovina’s history.
Latvia came to my attention when one of my longtime favorites on Instagram, @insearchofperfect, traveled through the city. Yulia is from the Baltic region, so her take on Riga is a much different experience than your normal traveler’s, which really made the city come alive. She recently wrote a piece about her experience for Passion Passport, which has really cemented my desire to visit. If Paris and the Amalfi Coast are experiencing burnout from tourism, Riga, with its beautiful architecture and narrow pathways, is ready for quiet discovery.
Tallinn is another city that popped up frequently on Instagram and just seemed to get more charming with each photo. A delightful mix of medieval and modern, Tallinn has both a storybook charm and the energy of an up-and-coming young city. After all, this is the country where Skype was invented. I could even see turning this area into a home base for a few months.
While most first-time visitors flock to Paris, I would suggest adding Toulouse to your itinerary. My friend visited the southern French city, also known as La ville rose (the pink city), and I feel as though I’ve visited myself, given how much she praises it. She found the locals incredibly friendly and the Old Quarter charming, and she still craves cassoulet, a sort of casserole dish.
Have you been to any of these cities? What do you think?
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*This post is made in collaboration with GoEuro.