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15 Overlooked European Destinations Every Bit as Magical as the Mainstream

15 Overlooked European Destinations Every Bit as Magical as the Mainstream

If you’re one of many heading to Europe but don’t want to get stuck in tourist traps, you might want to ditch basic European itineraries and head to lesser-known cities instead. Here are some underrated European cities that will make you fall in love:

Antwerp, Belgium

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A gorgeous port city dating back to the Middle Ages, Antwerp brings stunning castles strewn over cobblestone streets and an impressive history. Apart from its impressive Renaissance architecture, Antwerp is also known for its charming old central square, the Grote Markt, which takes the cake. Tourists can spend the entire day walking its charming streets or exploring the bloody past that made it the world’s Diamond capital.

Tbilisi, Georgia

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Although most tourists typically skip Georgia, adding it to the list solely for Tbilisi is worthwhile. The city hides a rough history and an intricate culture from its time under Russian and Persian rule, allowing tourists to explore the best of both worlds. Along its cobblestone streets, you’ll find hanging churches, stunning fortresses, and relaxing sulfur baths that will have you de-stressed in no time.

Wiesbaden, Germany

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If you’re tired of exploring the same old destinations in Germany, travel off the beaten path and visit Wiesbaden, where a serene setting awaits. Suppose you’re bent on diving into German history. In that case, you can see the national history exhibits, but if you’d much rather stay away, make a beeline for its local spas and natural thermal springs, which literally take the heat off and help you explore the city at a calmer pace.

Gdańsk, Poland

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Set on the Baltic coast, this dainty little port city might not catch your eye at first. But hiding in plain sight lies an impressive art history, marvelous works of architecture, and gothic towers that take to the skies. While its dozens of gothic cathedrals and vibrant streets are enough to charm you, you’ll have a more challenging time forgetting its Main Town, reconstructed after the Second World War, and offers a complex blend of modern delicacies and past warfare.

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Seeing tourists miss Bosnia and Herzegovina is constantly baffling, mainly because it holds cities like Mostar, a gorgeous little spot along the Neretva River. Mostar’s Old Bridge, or Stari Most, is one of its most popular attractions, but many naturalists are here. You can swim in the rivers, boat through canyons and gorges, hike the mountains, or skip the adrenaline and visit the picturesque city’s charming old town.

Kalmar, Sweden

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The Kalmar Castle stands proud, basking in all its Renaissance glory, but that’s not all that makes this city on the Baltic Sea popular. While hundreds of tourists love to flock here to explore the drawbridges and capture the castle’s turrets, you’ll also find plenty to do at the Kvarnholmen (old town), where bustling markets, charming people, lively events, and delectable cuisine make you want to spend the rest of your life here.s

Norwich, England

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Tourists tend to ignore England when planning their trip unfairly, but Norwich will convince you to book the tickets. The city is a goldmine for literature buffs, so it has been listed as the UNESCO City of Literature. It holds book fairs and incredible events yearly and is a great spot for history and art buffs, who can marvel over its majestic cathedrals and gorgeous churches. Of course, the fantastic fish and chips, mince pies, and other English delights make it a worthwhile trip.

Innsbruck, Austria

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You’ll be able to spot Innsbruck from a distance. This Austrian city is lined with vibrant buildings reminiscent of Imperial and modern architecture. The colorful splash of houses is accompanied by a stunning coastline that sparkles against the sun and promises heaps of fun and relaxation. But Innsbruck isn’t only a charming destination in the summer; winters bring tons of snow and icy cascades, making it the perfect spot for winter sports.

Verona, Italy

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You might want to skip typical destinations like Venice and head to Verona, where an even more serene and charming destination awaits. Verona is a medieval old town close to the Adige River and has been significant for centuries. Believed to be the setting for Romeo and Juliet, Verona brings a remarkable charm to life and wows tourists with Roman ruins, stunning sceneries, and impressive cathedrals.

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

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Centuries ago, the Petrusse and Alzette rivers carved the way for Luxembourg City, where a gorgeous and thriving life awaits. The city is extremely popular for Bock Casemates tunnels and other medieval fortifications, but it has tons to do for people of all ages. The city offers tourists the chance to explore stunning historical landmarks, visit art museums, watch the sunset from the top of the cathedrals, and embark on a delightful journey of its cuisine.

Pula, Croatia

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If you can’t decide whether to visit Rome’s ruins or Spain’s beaches, pick neither and head to Croatia, where Pula boasts the best of both worlds. On one side, you’ll see a sparkling golden coast stretching for miles, inviting beachgoers to unlimited opportunities to sunbathe, swim, kayak, boat, surf, and more. Just a few miles ahead, you’ll also find incredible Roman ruins, some as impressive as the Amphitheater and even the Temple of Augustus.

Montreux, Switzerland

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With a stunning sight you’ll hardly believe, Montreux boasts a remarkably blue seaside that challenges even the sky. Montreux lies along Lake Geneva atop cliffs, allowing visitors to truly disconnect from the rest of the world and spend their time here in pure bliss. Aside from its prominent nature-exploring activities like boating, swimming, and mountain climbing, the city also has gorgeous castles and one of the world’s most popular and scenic train routes, the Golden Pass Railway.

Aalesund, Norway

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The gateway to Geirangerfjord, Norway’s most scenic fjord, Aalesund, is a promise waiting to unfold. This port town isn’t just a gateway to gorgeous waterways and stunning cliffs overlooking the alpine area; it’s also known for the nouveau architecture style, making it ideal for even history lovers. Of course, that’s not all there is; the city’s delightful cuisine is rarely on most tourists’ lists but is worth every bite.

Visby, Sweden

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Believed to be Scandinavia’s best-preserved medieval city, Visby returns to simpler times. With homey cottages surrounded by lush greenery and a gorgeous seaside, Visby is every Victorian author’s dream. Its charming appeal does little to diminish its even more impressive history, which peeks out from the old preserved towns, medieval forts, and even museums.

Appingedam, Netherlands

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One of the most exciting cities in the Netherlands, Appingedam is a baffling spot for historians because no one can really tell when it began hosting us. But it’s believed the city was lived in over a millennium ago, so it’s brimming with culture and remarkable architecture that’s stood firm today. Its numerous museums, natural attractions, and even its Hanging Kitchens make it a unique destination.

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Travel Writer | Website

Emese Maczko is a travel blogger behind Eco Lodges Anywhere. Having explored several destinations around Europe, the US, Indonesia, and Australia, and resided in Germany, the United Kingdom, and Luxembourg, Emese possesses a keen understanding of diverse cultures and an appreciation for the beauty of each destination she visits. She advocates for sustainable travel and ecotourism.