The thing I love most about traveling is that the more places I visit, the more places I realize there are to visit. I’ve loved all the European capitals, but some of my favorite destinations have been the less obvious ones. From Salzburg to Stavanger, I’ve fallen for the under-the-radar European cities.

Under-the-Radar European Cities

Under-the-Radar European Cities

There are 13 destinations in particular that have impressed me. Whether it’s for their beautiful streets or grand squares, waterfront areas or mountain scenery, they’ve proven that Europe’s capitals aren’t the only cities worth visiting.

Utrecht, Netherlands

Mention the Netherlands and most people think of Amsterdam. But there are other great places to explore, including Utrecht. This compact city has everything I love about Amsterdam without the crowds. From scenic canals to impressive towers, Utrecht is overflowing with charm.


Hamburg, Germany

Germany is underrated all around, and Hamburg is one of the country’s most overlooked cities. With the shiny new Elbphilharmonie concert hall, two idyllic lakes, and lots of colorful cafes, Hamburg packs a range of highlights into its waterfront territory.


Glasgow, United Kingdom

Not many people come to the UK just to travel to Glasgow. But the Scottish city has reinvented itself in recent years, and its cool style, rich architectural fabric, and independent spirit make it worth a trip.


Lille, France

Despite being an easy day trip from London, Lille isn’t on most people’s list. But I love how this northern French city is full of cobbled streets, delicious shops, and sweet details. It’s main square is awe-inspiring, too.


Bilbao, Spain

Spain has so many amazing cities that it’s easy to get distracted by the heavy hitters. But it’s worth getting off the beaten path, and Bilbao is a great place to do it. With the stunning Guggenheim Bilbao museum as its anchor, the city has raised its culinary and cultural games to match.

Guggenheim Bilbao

Porto, Portugal

I fall more in love with Porto every time I visit. Not only does this northern Portuguese city have expansive riverfront views and quiet alleys bursting with color, but also the benefit of being a short trip from the gorgeous Douro Valley wine region.


Ravenna, Italy

Like Spain, Italy has enough all-star cities to keep travelers busy for months. But if there’s one place that gets passed over, it’s Ravenna. The former capital of the Western Roman Empire, the city is packed with Roman mosaics and other ancient treasures. I spent my 30th birthday in Ravenna and would go back again in a heartbeat.


Ghent, Belgium

Bruges and Brussels take center stage in Belgium, but Ghent offers the best of both in one city. With gorgeous historic buildings and a stunning square, Ghent is one of the loveliest under-the-radar European cities.


Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

I studied abroad in Prague and explored a lot of the Czech Republic while I was there. If one place stood out, it was Cesky Krumlov. A fairytale castle dominates the city, and there’s an air of magic that makes every street feel enchanted.

Bergen, Norway

On the west coast of Norway, Bergen is nestled between mountains and fjords. Its stunning scenery is enhanced by the colorful wooden houses on the Bryggen wharf and delicious seafood around every corner.


Cork, Ireland

Down south in Ireland, Cork is often referred to as the “real capital”. But whether it is or not is less important than the fact that Cork offers an impressive display of everything a capital should offer. With a gorgeous university, bustling market, historic fort, and great pubs, the city is every bit as exciting as Dublin.

Cork, Ireland

Innsbruck, Austria

Many know Innsbruck for its skiing, but it has far more to offer than just a piste. From an opulent Hapsburg palace to colorful domed towers, there’s a lot to love about Innsbruck itself. And it’s not just the old stuff, either. The funicular was designed by Zaha Hadid.


Cluj-Napoca, Romania

I spent part of two summers in Romania as a teenager, and fell in love with Cluj-Napoca. The historic architecture is more approachable than some of the imposing structures in Bucharest, and the leafy parks and university vibe give it a great energy.

And perhaps that’s the best thing about these cities. They have an energy that defies their size, and identities that set them apart from their larger neighbors. There are a lot more of them to discover, too, and I’m excited to see what else Europe is hiding.

How about you? What are your favorite under-the-radar European cities?

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Under-the-Radar European Cities

32 Comments on Lady’s 13 Under-the-Radar European Cities You Have to Visit

  1. I too am attracted by what under-the-radar cities in Europe have to offer. Porto and Ravenna are on my list to visit. Glasgow is there too even though I studied there for a year; so much has changed that a return is a must. I would include Birmingham, Cologne and Palermo on my under-the-radar list.

  2. This is a must have guideline for future trips to Europe! There are so many places waiting to be explored! So glad you shared this!(:

    With love from Singapore,

    Iann Ethel

  3. Hi

    We have been to a few of these cities and you are right Bilbao is a true gem. We are off to Utrecht in a couple of weeks, which we are really looking forward to.
    I think I’ll be adding the others to our list as well.

    Janis & Gary

  4. I’ve always wanted to visit Porto! And I have to say that I can’t agree with you more about Hamburg, but Bremen is also very nice! If you come visit sometime we would be happy to show you around! And as half Spanish / half Italian, I can’t help but recomend Salamanca (Spain) and Vicenza (Italy). They both are gorgeous!

  5. I just discovered your blog a few weeks ago, Julie. It’s stunning, the best blog I have found for travel to places that interest me on the Web! The problem is you have so many posts it will take me a long, long time to make my way through it all. This is a good problem to have though.:)

    I haven’t been to any of the cities on your list, they all look great. The ones I’ve enjoyed the most that could qualify for your list of smaller cities are Bath, Salzburg, and Siena. But I can see why you didn’t include any of those because they get enough publicity already.

  6. Cesky Krumlov is one of my favorites! Also loved St Cirq-Lapopie and Sarlat in France. Agree with readers about Salamanca, Siena, Bath, Salzburg. Loved Granda and the Alhambra. Many wonderful villages in Dordigne & Lot River area. Oh I’m getting the travel bug!! Love your list. Always so many places to go!

  7. Just over the water is Tangier. I went four times in 2016 and it’s a magical place – buy olives in the souq and start cocktail hour pre sunset on your riad’s roof. Delightful. So nice with the ocean surrounding the city, the old French quarter, the medina….magic. Also a huge fan of Pisa. It’s quiet after the bus loads leave in the late afternoon. Wander around, eat and drink by the river with the students – good fun.

  8. I am so glad to read that I am not the only one to like less rated cities. Cork, Innsbruck and Glasgow are such wonderful cities. I love it when a city is not packed with tourists but you get the chance to explore really. I am headinf off to Hamburg on Sunday. I cannot wait. Can you recommend anything?

    I love your blog and your travel tips btw.

  9. Great to see Glasgow and Hamburg on the list! 🙂 I lived in Hamburg for 2 years before moving back to Scotland and loved every minute – just got back from visiting the old place again and it’s as great as ever! Porto is one of my absolute favourites – I’d move there tomorrow if I could! (Though I think Glasgow and Scotland would still tempt me back…) Some good tips for future trips too, thanks!

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