Musement ventures beyond the European capitals to share under-the-radar cities that are well worth a visit.
We love the European capitals, but sometimes but we love to immerse ourselves in less popular, more authentic cities. Here are ten lesser-known European cities that are well worth a visit.
1. Gdansk, Poland
With almost half a million inhabitants and a thousand years of history, Gdansk is the sixth largest city in Poland. Located on the Baltic Sea, it is home to the biggest port in the country. Gdansk is known as “the city of amber” due to the amber trade, which made the city one of the most prosperous in Europe. On your route, walk down Ulica Dluga and Mariacka streets, visit Artus Court and stroll through Oliwa Park.
2. Sveti Stefan, Montenegro
The Adriatic Sea is home to Sveti Stefen, a fortified island connected to the peninsula by a narrow passage. Surrounded by pink sand and turquoise water, the island forms part of the luxury resort, Aman, meaning that you must pay to enter. The good news is that you can admire it at no charge from afar and capture the spectacular seascape with your camera. After all, this isn’t the most photographed place in Montenegro for nothing.
3. Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
Only three hours from Prague, Cesky Krumlov is a medieval fairy-tale town that is worth visiting when you’re in the Czech Republic. The charming town full of pastel-colored houses with pointed roofs was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. It stands out for its picturesque historic town, castle facing the Vltava River, the revolving theater, the Latran area, and St. Vitus church.
4. Bassano del Grappa, Italy
Italy’s Veneto region is home to a variety of fascinating places, and Bassano del Grappa is one of them. Famous for its covered wooden bridge and for being the home of the Italian liquor, grappa, it is best to explore the cozy old town of this beautiful medieval city on foot. You will experience the Garibaldi Plaza, old palaces, the castle, cathedral, and little artisanal stores.
5. Dinant, Belgium
Admiring the medieval architecture of Dinant is a good plan for when you want to escape Brussels for a few hours. Considered one of the most photogenic locations in Belgium, this quiet city in the region of Wallonia sits on the shores of the Meuse River. It also happens to be the birthplace of the saxophone! Walk across the Charles de Gaulle Bridge to admire Dinant from a beautiful vantage point, visit the Collegiate Church of Notre Dame (Romanesque in origin with a unique, bulb-shaped bell tower), and the citadel that is over 300-feet tall.
6. Riga, Latvia
Riga is a small European capital that has yet to be discovered. Called Paris of the East, it is on the rise following its modernization–though it continues to preserve its state as a fairy-tale city. It is not a surprise that it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stroll through the streets of the old town of the Latvian capital and you will find, among many other things, St. Peter’s Church, House of the Blackheads, and the Riga Central Market where you can try some Baltic specialties.
7. Bergen, Norway
Nature-lovers will really enjoy the beautiful Bergen. Located between the mountains and the sea, Bergen is the second largest city in Norway. The views on the train from Oslo are spectacular, and once in Bergen, your eyes will continue to widen with the panoramas as you take the Floibanen funicular up the mountain. Continue on with a route through the region’s fjords, stroll through the fish market, and as dusk falls, go to one of the numerous musical events taking place in the city.
8. Utrecht, Holland
In the shadow of Amsterdam, Utrecht doesn’t get much attention despite the fact that it is an old charming college town. Only a half-hour by train from the Dutch capital, it is worth discovering the beautiful pedestrian area (by bike of course!), where you will find cozy cafes and outdoor seating on the edges of its canals. The Dom tower (the cathedral) is a stop you shouldn’t miss in Utrecht.
9. Berat, Albania
With a thousand years of history, the Albanian city of Berat is also known as “the city of a thousand windows” because of all of the Ottoman houses located in its valley. Aside from the more modern area, Berat has three historic neighborhoods: Gorica, Mangalem, and Kajala. Despite the fact that its charm is starting to allure travelers, the city still preserves a pleasant and relaxed old-fashioned atmosphere.
10. Tallinn, Estonia
The capital of Estonia is a small gem that is just waiting to be discovered. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, Tallinn will surprise you with its Soviet legacy and also with its animated nightlife and coffee-drinking culture. Don’t miss the town hall (Gothic style), the Kadriorg Palace, and the Kumu (Estonian art museum) during your visit to this Balkan city.