Summer is almost at an end. Hope it has been a good summer so far for you. Mine has been quite epic. Exhausting too! Fun nevertheless. I visited over 35 cities and we filmed some new Luxury Hostels that you will discover in my new guide to Luxury Hostels of Europe which will be published next month. The trip allowed me to visit some old favourites like Munich and Seville. It also introduced me to some new cities that are not so popular with tourists. It got me thinking. What do you feel is the most underrated city, town or place in Europe?
I love and still recommend you should visit London, Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin. However, in this article I wanted to make the case for a few lesser known cities when you start planning your next trip to Europe. Problems of overcrowding are emerging in Europe’s leading cities leading to a lot of unfortunate problems for both locals and visitors. So getting a little off the beaten track makes sense for a number of reasons.
Over the last two weeks I shared on my Instagram feed, my list of the 10 most underrated cities/towns of Europe. Here’s the list. In no certain order, I present you my top 10 least loved cities of Europe.
Athens. This city has tons to offer in terms of culture, gastronomy & nightlife & beaches are just 30 minutes away: everything you would want in a long weekend break. Plus everything is affordable. Check out hidden spots in the city like the little known neighbourhood of Anafiotika with its white washed cottages and beautiful stray kittens: tucked away right beneath the Acropolis yet completely devoid of tourists.
Stay at the fabulous City Circus Hostel– one of Europe’s coolest design hostels. Fun place, fab restaurant and beautiful rooms. Plus if you are planning a trip to Athens, checkout my earlier photoessay and guide to Athens.
At number 9 I have Zadar, Dalmatia’s lesser known medieval gem. With over 3000 years of history packed into its medieval core- from the Romans to the Venetians , this is the perfect city to get lost in. Highlight for me was Nikola Basic’s fabulous ‘singing sea organ’ by the quay: this might be one of the modern wonders of the world with its unusual melodies created by the waves running through its pipes: every evening I would spend watching the most beautiful sunset while listening to this most unusual hypnotic sounds. Plus the seafood here is out of this world.
Plus Zadar has a really cool design hostel : The Boutique Hostel Forum. Great location in the Roman Forum. Fab staff , great design and very clean and comfortable.
Porto often suffers in comparison to its more beautiful sister city Lisbon but this city has so much soul & character. Love the down to earth friendly people, the fabulous food, the creative spark this city has, the dreamy architecture and the wonderful Art Deco heritage. Plus it has my favourite hostel in the world : the @galleryhostel ! Keep sharing your suggestions for your most underrated cities in Europe & pop back tomorrow to find out the identity of the 7th most underrated city in Europe.
Porto often suffers in comparison to its more beautiful sister city Lisbon but this city has so much soul & character. Love the down to earth friendly people, the fabulous food, the creative spark this city has, the dreamy architecture and the wonderful Art Deco heritage. Porto also has my favourite hostel in the world : the Gallery Hostel. If you want to find out more, checkout my earlier review of the hostel.
Zagreb. Tourist free, great bistros, beautiful Austro Hungarian architecture that reminds me a lot of Vienna and Ljubljana , fab museums like the extraordinary ( probably my favourite museum in Europe) the Museum of Broken Relationships. Plus you have two fantastic hostels: Swanky Mint and Main Square Hostel.
People are lovely too. What’s stopping you from visiting here?
They call this part of Nuremberg, the ‘Liebesinsel’ aka the ‘love island.’ You might come here to relax, read a book in the sun or makeout with someone.
This is Nuremberg. There’s so much to enjoy-the beautiful architecture, great museums, craft beer, a whole bunch of waist expanding gastronomic delights and very friendly people. Destroyed by the Allies in 1945, the locals over the past few decades have painstakingly rebuilt the city, helping restore much of the city’s original character and medieval charm. Definitely a city to consider on your next Eurotrip plus they have an amazing hostel here in a castle. Plus do checkout my earlier 48 hour guide to Nuremberg on the blog for further inspiration.
Cordoba. This was once the heart of Moorish spain where you can find some of the most beautiful examples of moorish architecture like its stunning ‘mesquita.’
If you want a real authentic taste of Andalucia, without the crowds, come here. After the crowds in Granada and Seville, I found Cordoba to be so blissfully chilled out and relaxed. Plus there is a fabulous new luxury hostel here that you should checkout called the Bed and Be. Great rooms and you are guaranteed a warm welcome from Jose and his team. This is one hostel and one city you will not regret visiting. I am prepared to put my money on this!
Next in my list of most underrated cities in Europe is San Sebastián. City gets overlooked along with many other lesser known but interesting cities in Northern Spain ( Bilbao, Oviedo & Coruna) This city has everything you would want in a city break: culture, great yet affordable gastronomy ( best in Spain), beautiful beaches & the dreamy art nouveau architecture – there are stories at every corner. If you like to know more about San Sebastián check out my earlier guide and photoessay.
Not crowded and touristy like Brussels or Bruges- loved my time in Leuven. It has so much beauty packed into a compact city: dreamy cathedral, amazing selection of bars, plenty of great and cheap places to eat being a university town and also a great hostel with lovely staff , rooms and bar . Say hello to the fantastic design luxury hostel- Cube Hostel. A very homely hostel and great staff. You will be happy to have discovered this hostel.
For a few days you feel like you are in a bubble in Leuven. It reminds me a lot of St Andrews and Cambridge. If you need a break from the crowds during your Eurotrip, then Leuven is the place to come to recharge your batteries or even for a chilled out citybreak. Plus you can a true taste of Flemish hospitality here.
Cities with cosy, old style centres and messy narrow streets always appeal to me.
Cities that are not exceedingly pretty or outstanding but have that cosy, relaxed vibe. Cities where locals treat you with great respect and curious to chat with you. Belgrade is that kind of city. A huge city that still feels small. Wonderful bars and a great nightlife, beautiful river with a glorious fortress from where you can see a beautiful sunset ( in picture) lots of great but cheap places to eat. Nice cafes. Plus lots of character. Loved my time in Belgrade and Serbia: I definitely hope to be back again.
Now. You will be wondering what I think is the most underrated city in Europe.
Here is my answer: Rotterdam.
This city gets overlooked for its more prettier neighbour, Amsterdam which is a shame ( along with The Hague) because this city has so much to offer. Culturally this is one of Europe’s most exciting cities. You have fantastic festivals like North Sea Jazz and Rotterdam Unlimited. You have one of Europe’s most forward thinking museums- Bojimans ( in picture) which will see you in the company of Dali, Picasso, Monet and Magritte. The food! Thanks to the 200+ nationalities that call Rotterdam home you have such an amazing food scene. Plus you have the stunning new Markthal.Plus you have such a rich architectural scene- skyline here is something else.Plus you have amazing hostels like the King Kong Hostel and Hostel Ani and Haakien : two of Europe’s finest luxury hostels. More than anything, locals are warm spirited, great dry sense of humour and fun loving people.