With a multitude of beautiful cities in Europe, it can be hard to know which ones are worth visiting in your lifetime. The obvious choices like Paris, London, Rome or Barcelona are lovely but not exclusive to what this vast continent has to offer. So to provide you with a little insight, here are five underrated cities in Europe to add to your bucket list!
1. Brussels, Belgium
One of the most underrated cities in Europe has got to be Brussels, the capital of Belgium. Often known by foreigners for their waffles, beer, fries, and chocolate or to most Europeans as a center of continental bureaucracy, this small quirky metropolis is so much more. The city is home to many interesting and contrasting architectural styles from baroque to art deco to art nouveau to sleek and modern. Visit one of the world’s most beautiful squares know as the Grand Place, hidden away in the center of the city where you will find the stunning fifteenth-century city hall and the six surrounding guild halls that are equally as impressive.
Also, check out all the various museums Brussels has to offer like the Musée Royaux Des Beaux-Arts for an amazing mix of modern and ancient art or the jaw-dropping Atomium, a sculptural building modeled after an iron molecule where, after a short elevator ride, can bring you to the top for the ultimate view of the city. Finally, don’t forget to explore Belgium’s often under-appreciated comic book history by visiting The Belgian Comic Strip Centre or scouting out the various larger than life comic book murals throughout the city. One last point to touch on would be the amazing food this town has to offer from its classic dishes to new and experimental cuisine. You will definitely not leave disappointed!
2. Helsinki, Finland
Set on the Gulf of Finland, this laid-back capital is a lovely sea town that is sure to leave you charmed and pleasantly surprised. First off, for all you caffeine lovers out there, Finns drink the most coffee in the world with the average local consuming three to four mugs a day. But instead of heading straight to the closest Starbucks, try heading on over to the numerous higher-quality cafés, coffee shops and roasters around Helsinki for your daily brew. Afterwards, visit the National Museum, home to many artifacts and exhibitions tracing Finnish history from the Stone Age to the present.
Next, feast your eyes on the blindingly white Helsinki Cathedral located in the expansive Senate Square and then head on over to the Old Market Hall for some fresh Finnish fare, including fresh-baked treats, cheese, and traditional dishes like seafood soup. Finally, take a quick ferry ride to the Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, built in the 1700s to protect the Finns from Russia. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and also houses a museum, visitor center, restaurants, and cafés.
3. Cagliari, Sardinia
One should never miss a chance to visit any southern cities in Europe, especially if they are as beautiful as the capital city of Cagliari, located on the southern part of the island of Sardinia. This small yet ancient city has much to offer in terms of sights, history and gorgeous sandy beaches. Take a walk around the Castello, a medieval hilltop citadel full of towers, palaces, and domes that used to be home to the local aristocracy. Walk through the maze of narrow, cobbled alleys and crumbling buildings where you can find a few impressive viewpoints as well as a number of cafés and restaurants.
Walk up one of the two Pisan towers, Torre dell’Elefante or Torre di San Pancrazio, both built in the fourteenth century, for fantastic views of the city. Visit the Cattedrale di Santa Maria, a beautiful thirteenth-century cathedral with an iconic Baroque interior or head to the Archeology Museum to learn about the amazing and expansive history of Sardinia. Finally, cool off on one of Cagliari’s amazing beaches like the popular tourist spot, Poetto beach or hike all the way to Cala Fighera, one of the city’s most stunning hidden beaches and a popular nudist area.
4. Marseille, France
Out of all the cities in Europe, Marseille is definitely a must-see for everyone. This port city located in the south of France is known for its rough and tough image but also has so much to offer in terms of culture, history, and dynamism. First, head on over to the Old Port, a massive rectangular harbor where trading has been going on for over 2,600 years. Next, climb the steep steps towards the Basilique Notre-Dame De La Garde, a nineteenth-century neo-byzantine church 150 meters above sea level. Afterward, check out some of the great museums this city has to offer like the Musée d’Histoire de Marseille where 26 centuries of history can be found within various artifacts like ceramics, architectural fragments, mosaics, and more, dating all the way back to the Ancient Greeks.
You can also hit up the more recent MuCEM, a cutting edge museum located near Marseille’s seventeenth-century Fort de Saint-Jean, where they display an overview of Mediterranean culture. Finally, take a stroll in Le Panier, an increasingly trendy district full of independent boutiques, cafes and street art that used be one of the poorest areas in the city and home to most of Marseille’s immigrants (there are still large Maghreb and Corsican populations to this day). With its interestingly diverse mix of ethnicities, cultures, and history, there is no denying the beauty and vibrancy you will feel when visiting this ancient city.
5. Bucharest, Romania
Once known as the “Paris of the East,” Bucharest is the capital city of Romania and the country’s cultural, industrial and financial center. Start your trip off with a visit to the world’s largest parliamentary building, the Palace of Parliament, and take an hour-long guided tour that manages to only cover a fraction of the buildings three-million-plus square feet. Focus and gawk at the tons of marble, hardwood, and gold used in the building’s construction in the 1980s by former communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
Next, head to some of the best restaurants in the city centre to discover the relatively unknown yet delicious Romanian cuisine and feast on such delicacies as sarmale, cabbage rolls stuffed with spiced pork and beef, mamaliga, a cornmeal porridge similar to polenta or this popular street snack called covrigi, a soft pretzel topped with salt or poppy seeds and served piping hot. Finally, visit the Museum of the Romanian Peasant, a nod to the country’s long and rich history complete with exhibitions on the elaborate woodworking, pottery-making, egg-painting, and weaving skills of the peasantry.