Underrated European Cities and Town

Posted on 2 August 2023 By David Henning

There’s a lot of love to bestow on Europe as a destination (that’s if you forget about pesky visa requirements and our bad currency) but its more than just London town, France and the streets of roam.

Riga, Latvia

Latvia’s capital city is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, but it’s unlikely that you’ve ever heard of it. It has the highest concentration of Art Neavou architecture in the world, making up a third of the city’s buildings. It is also the European city with the second-highest amount of wooden buildings.  It has a vibrant historical old town with cobblestone streets as well as the more trendy and contemporary Tallinas Kvartals square with graffiti-adorned walls, resteraunts and nightclubs. The central market is another place to visit, a favourite being the fish market where you can try the region’s delicacies of smoked fish, even salmon, for a bargain.

Kuldīga, Lativa

Latvia doesn’t have just one major city but has plenty of charming little towns, Kuldīga has got to be on the top of our list. Built on the banks of the Venta River where it has steps of cascading waterfalls. In salmon season, some locals place nets on the waterfalls’ boulders, catching fish, and the central town has a selection of superb resteraunts to choose from.

Tallinn, Estonia

Another Baltic city to make out list, Estonia’s capital has a harmonious blend of modern comforts and cultural heritage. The Kalamaja district takes centre stage—a former industrial backdrop transformed into a bohemian enclave. Its colourful wooden houses echo stories of fishermen and factories, now immortalized in landmarks like the Seaplane Harbour Museum. The Telliskivi district is a hub of culinary and artistic treasures. Across the waves lies Noblessner, a once-secret submarine factory reborn into a trendy seaside neighbourhood.

Faro, Portugal

Picture: Ashley England

Portugal is such a beloved tourist destination, but most people flock to Lisbon and Porto with its Douro Valley, not really paying the rest of the country any attention. Even though Faro has its own airport, it’s mostly a transit destination for travellers on their way to the Algarve Coast. This town was badly affected by the 2009 recession, with many residents packing up and leaving, evident by its many abandoned buildings. But exploring one silent alleyway with empty buildings, a parallel alley is alive with bars spilling out onto the street.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Ljubljana. Picture: David Henning

Ljubljana. Picture: David Henning

From a Kanye West-inspired tour, incredible street food to an anarchist nightclub and a hipster haven. No matter who you are, there are plenty of things to do in Ljubljana. It is home to Europe’s most successful squat which is is a thriving cultural centre today and its being picked up as a culinary destination thanks to its top-quality resteraunts.

Read: The city of dragons: Things to do in Slovenia’s Ljubljana

Piran, Slovenia

Slovenia has a small piece of land jutting out onto the Adriatic coastline, and Piran along with the charming nearby town of Izola has some of the best beaches (be sure to check out Moon Bay) in the region as well as a charming and vibrant town squares with plenty of places to eat. Be sure to try a local delicacy called girice, tiny fish deep fried and eaten as chips.

Ghent, Belgium

Between Brugge and Antwerp, the Flemish city is often overlooked but it is a great alternative to Brugge with its hoards of tourists well still having the charm of an old medieval town. Take a history tour in the day, drink with students at night and then roam the alley ways tipsy on your way home.

Turin, Italy

Rome, Sicily, Naples – so many destinations to visit in Italy. But this industrial city in the north was home to fervent protests in the 1980s when Italy’s Communist Party nearly came to power. It is also the city where the Moka coffee pot originated, and the home of mint chocolate, hosting an annual mint chocolate festival. indulge in a city that loves caffeine and cocoa, which is also knowns for its refined architecture and cuisine.

Zaragoza, Spain

Spain’s hidden gem showcases a mesmerizing blend of history and modernity. The iconic Basílica del Pilar’s reflection on the Río Ebro epitomizes the city’s charm. Amidst fine architecture and Roman remains, Zaragoza’s allure extends beyond monuments. With Spain’s finest tapas and bars, it’s a culinary haven. Home to Francisco de Goya’s art, the city reveals an artistic soul. Despite its 2,000-year heritage, Zaragoza remains off the tourist radar, offering an authentic Spanish experience..

Tirana, Albania

A diverse and beautiful city on that that’s cheaper than other parts of Europe. Tirana’s brutalist architecture from its communist past makes for an intriguing city and the Albanian Rivera along the Ionian Coast is dotted with charming villages and beaches.

Read: Is Albania on your bucket list?

Lyon, France

There’s an old saying that if Paris is the heart of France, then Lyon is its stomach. So many of France’s exceptional culinary traditions can be traced back to Lyon, with so many revered chefs honing their skills in the city’s resteraunts.  Be sure to indulge yourself as much as you can in the gastronomic capital of France.

Leiden, Netherlands

Leiden, a hidden gem with 35 courtyards, 28 km of canals, and the Netherlands’ oldest university. Beyond Amsterdam’s chaos, Leiden offers serene escapes, windmills, and churches. Wander cobbled lanes, witness Rembrandt’s birthplace, and explore charming hofjes – courtyards scattered throughout the city


Sofia, Bulgaria

Sofia, Bulgaria’s vibrant capital, blends Eastern and Western influences – a past of Ottoman history and socialist struggle. Explore rich history through Roman ruins, grand churches, and Ottoman mosques. Delve into modernity at bustling markets and chic cafes. Mount Vitosha offers outdoor adventures, while Alexander Nevsky Cathedral stands as an iconic symbol. Sofia’s fusion of cultures and eras creates a captivating tapestry that captivates all who visit.

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