From Birmingham to Gdansk, Musement shares six European second cities worth a visit.
When booking a trip to Europe, it’s easy to gravitate toward big names like London, Rome, Barcelona, and Paris. But one of the most wonderful things about Europe is that the continent conceals under-the-radar gems at nearly every corner, and many of these are “second cities” well with a visit. Here’s a look at six second cities in Europe that should be on your bucket list.
1. Hamburg , Germany
When it comes to Germany, it’s hard to resist gravitating toward the edginess of Berlin or the Bavarian charm of Munich, but Hamburg offers plenty worth writing home about. This port city on the river Elbe that connects to the North Sea became known as Germany’s Gateway to the World, and today, it’s one of the coolest places you could imagine. While the exceptional architecture, interesting museums, and World War II sites can keep you busy, Hamburg doesn’t necessarily have a ton to see. Rather, it’s a place to experience and just be. The food, nightlife, and bar scene make for all-around good vibes.
2. Bordeaux, France
Any city that calls France home likely suffers from a stigma simply because it’s not Paris. While it’s challenging to overlook the French capital, France offers plenty of other cities that will tug on your heartstrings and Bordeaux is one of them. A little over two hours from Paris by train, Bordeaux is exemplary. As the region produces some of the world’s most prestigious wines, wine stands front and center in the city with the La Cité du Vin, wine bars, and great restaurants. Plus, from here, you can branch out for a number of day trips and short getaways.
3. Birmingham, England
London’s allure makes it easy to prioritize the capital city when traveling to England. But Birmingham warrants your time, too. Get a taste of the city’s deep industrial roots by touring the Cadbury Factory, admire the world’s largest collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, stroll the charming canal district, savor Michelin-starred cuisine, and scope out the historic jewelry quarter.
4. Ljubljana, Slovenia
While Ljubljana is unquestionably Slovenia’s first city, the capital remains relatively unsung compared to some of its seemingly grander counterparts. But once you visit, this charming fairytale-like gem will have etched itself permanently into your heart. It’s teeming with culture an exceptional cuisine, plus, from here you can head to Postojna Cave to see the closest living species to dragons in the world.
5. Zagreb, Croatia
Thanks a good part to Game of Thrones, Dubrovnik and Split tend to rank high with Croatia-bound travelers. Yet Zagreb, its capital, undoubtedly boasts enough to keep your dance card full. Its unforgettable architecture is great fodder for your Instagram feed while its particular coffee culture (and exquisite cuisine) will perk up your palate. Night owls will love the nightlife while culture vultures can visit the contemporary Art and Mimara museums. Plus, drop into the Museum of Broken Relationships which showcases memorabilia from an emotional occasion that pretty much all of us can relate to.
6. Gdansk, Poland
Poland’s seaside Baltic gem is as fascinating as it is colorful. When in Gdansk, eat your fill, shop for storied Baltic amber, crawl your way through the pubs on Beer Street, explore its communist history, stroll the Motlawa river embankment, and snap away at the Długi Targ (main square) to find that perfect shot for your Instagram feed. Art buffs won’t want to miss Hans Memling’s The Last Judgement, housed in the National Museum. Summer travelers can head to the beach, and anyone who digs water activities can participate in plenty, such as kayaking.