You know all about Paris, London, Dublin, Berlin, Prague and all the other European destinations that are so often talked about. But what about the places you rarely, if ever, hear about? Imagine a vacation where you can enjoy the appeal of a famous city, but without the high prices or the big crowds. From Belgium and Denmark to Slovenia and Georgia, these underrated destinations in Europe are sure to be calling your name.
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Dinant, Belgium (Nearby Hotels)
Brussels is fabulous but you can escape the hustle and bustle by heading south to the riverfront town of Dinant. Nestled between the Meuse River and its citadel, it boasts stunning architecture and some amazing views from the mountaintop fortress. Be sure to visit the waterfalls of the Grotto of Dinant, the Sanctuary of Beauraing, and the Collegiate Church of Notre Dame de Dinant, a 13th-century Gothic cathedral.
Tbilisi, Georgia (Nearby Hotels)
The Georgian capital of Tbilisi is a fantastic city to get lost in. While it’s very much off the beaten track, it has a lovely Old Town with enticing winding alleyways and traditional balconied houses that are tucked in between magnificent Art Noveau buildings. There are lots of traditional markets to explore, filled with colorful produce, breads and meats, and no Walmart in sight. When it comes to food, as there are people here from just about every culture, from Russia to the north, Turkey to the west, Armenia to the south and Azerbaijan to the east, it results in an outstanding mix of eats as well.
Piran, Slovenia (Nearby Hotels)
Piran is a postcard-perfect town that’s often compared to Venice, situated on a beautiful peninsula that lies between the Gulf of Piran and the Bay of Strunjan. Stepping into the old port is like stepping into an open-air museum with its many colorful medieval buildings and long, rich history. Piran’s Church of St. George with its separate bell tower and baptistery is quite similar to the campanile of St. Marco in Venice. Head to Tartini Square for some great people watching and a cocktail or two.
Cork, Ireland (Nearby Hotels)
While Dublin has a lot to offer, it’s also a sprawling, traffic-filled city. Cork, on the other hand is sometimes referred to as the “real capital of Ireland,” and it’s a lot easier to navigate. It’s filled with happening pubs that host live music, outstanding art galleries and thought-provoking museums, and it offers one of the best foodie scenes in the entire country. Just be sure to bring plenty of loose clothing to wear after feasting on all the fresh seafood, local cheeses, handmade chocolates, and Guinness to wash it all down with of course.
Turku, Finland (Nearby Hotels)
Turku was named the European Capital of Culture in 2011, but it’s still managed to remain under the radar with tourists. Finland’s oldest town boasts a a burgeoning food and drink scene, charming cobblestone streets to explore, a medieval castle, a picturesque waterfront and the opportunity to enjoy exciting nightlife too. The 1886 Turku Market Hall is a great way to explore the cuisine. Be sure to sample the traditional salmon soup with local rye bread for an authentic Finnish experience.
Guimaraes, Portugal (Nearby Hotels)
Filled with a maze of cobbled streets and alleyways, Guimaraes is one of the prettiest cities in Portugal. It’s also home to a 10th-century castle guarded by a statue of the nation’s first king. From the towers and battlements inside, you can enjoy a fabulous view of the city and beyond. It’s the kind of place that’s best experienced while sipping the local coffee, or a glass of local wine, in one of the medieval squares like Praca de Santiago or Santiago, and watching the world go by.
Girona, Spain (Nearby Hotels)
While most people visiting Spain head to Madrid or Barcelona, the smaller city of Girona may offer an even more rewarding experience, and it’s not without Michelin-star restaurants either. The ancient Catalan city is dominated by its cathedral which sits at its center, while twisty streets wind around it. It boasts one of the best preserved Jewish Quarters in all of Europe, and you can even take a stroll on the city’s medieval walls which span the old town’s eastern border. From the top, you’ll be able to take in breathtaking visits of the city and surrounding landscape.
San Gimignano, Siena, Italy (Nearby Hotels)
San Gimignano is a charmingly medieval walled village that’s surprisingly still unspoiled by tourism. Renowned for its 14 towers that soar above the skyline offering impressive views of the countryside, at its peak, the town’s patrician families had built 72 tower houses as a symbol of their wealth and power. While only 14 have survived, San Gimignano still retains its feudal atmosphere and appearance. You can climb the tallest tower, the only one open to the public, dating all the way back to 1298, rises nearly 90 feet. Enjoy a glass of the local white wine made with Vernaccia grapes while gazing over the stone Tuscan farm houses and rolling green hills.
Brno, Czech Republic (Nearby Hotels)
Brno is considered Czech Republic’s second city, often overlooked by its more famous sibling, Prague, yet considerably cheaper and much less busy. While it doesn’t have the Charles Bridge, it does offer plenty of its own cultural and historical attractions, along with a small town feel and a slower moving pace. It may be laid back, but it’s home to countless lively cafes and a club scene that can even rival that of Prague’s, thanks to the city’s tens of thousands of students. Explore the Brno Underground, a labyrinth of cellars including the second biggest ossuary in Europe as well as Spilberk Castle, formerly the major royal castle in Moravia, the seat of the Margraves of Moravia and once the seat of the King of the Holy Roman Empire.
Aarhus, Denmark (Nearby Hotels)
Voted as one of 2017’s European Cities of Culture, it may not be long before the hordes of tourists start discovering Aarhus. Frequently named one of the happiest cities on Earth, as soon as you set foot here you’ll understand why. It sits along the coast next to spectacular fjords, forest and Viking rune stones, as well as boasting a beautiful old town that displays traditional Danish architecture from the 16th to 19th centuries. It’s has an outstanding food scene too, with everything from trendy cafes to Michelin star restaurants where one can sample New Nordic cuisine.