Think you know Europe? Think again, for we have prepared for you some of the lesser-known cities in Europe that everyone should visit.
Paris, London, Berlin. We’ve all heard of these expansive, powerhouse European cities that are amongst the globe’s most popular metropolises, but are they all that there is to this fascinating continent?
Most definitely not. Nestled amongst and lurking in the shadows of their bigger counterparts are some unknown cities, but with the same intrigue and perhaps more intimacy and charm.
And so, we have whittled it down for you. Here are five lesser-known cities in Europe that everyone should visit.
5. Ghent (Belgium) – for canal cruises and castle views
The first of our lesser-known cities in Europe that everyone should visit is Ghent, a port city that can be found in the north-west of Belgium, and sits at the mark where the River Leie and River Scheldt meet.
While you may not be as familiar with the city as you would, say, Brussels, Ghent is actually the second-largest city in the Flanders area (after Antwerp) and is steeped in historical significance.
It was a prominent city-state during the Middle Ages which first went under construction as far back as the 7th century. Today, the city is known for its bars, museums and architecture that sparkles on the canal banks, drawing parallels to Amsterdam.
Whilst here, make sure to visit the Gravensteen Castle, the picturesque St. Michael’s Bridge, St. Bavo’s Cathedral, St. Bavo’s Abbey and the Ghent Belfry, a UNESCO World Heritage construct.
4. Valletta (Malta) – a lesser-known city in Europe everyone should visit
Our next city for you to visit is the capital of the tiny Mediterranean country, Malta. Valletta was built in the 16th century and many of the buildings that characterise the city are Baroque in character.
The city itself has designated as a UNESCO World Heritage thanks to its historical and cultural value. It is the smallest capital in the European Union (EU) and is home to only 6,444 people, and is built on a peninsula.
Perhaps the most appealing aspect is that the city is small enough to travel by foot, and yet you will still see so much of ‘Il-Belt’ (‘the City’, as it is called by the locals).
There are over 25 churches within this walled city, accompanied by a number of palaces and forts. Its most significant structures would be the St. John’s Co-Cathedral and the Casca Rocca Picola.
3. Galway (Ireland) – the best of bohemian Ireland
Gailimh, as it is known in the Irish tongue, is one of the Emerald Isle’s most unique and engaging cities, and is without doubt deserving of its spot on our list of lesser-known cities in Europe that everyone should visit.
Situated in the West of Ireland, Galway hugs the shorelines of the Atlantic Ocean, with the Salthill promenade not far from the city centre providing the perfect place to take a dip.
With a population of only 79,934, it is one of Ireland’s smaller cities, giving the town an intimate and caring feel, where you will become absorbed in the quaint Irish bars and buskers that trail the city streets.
For your benefit, some of the best things to do in Galway are to rest in the Eyre Square, explore the city’s history at the Spanish arch, or enjoy a drink and dance in the bohemian Latin Quarter. See the Galway guide by Irish travel website Ireland Before You Die for planning a trip here.
2. Granada (Spain) – a compact city at the foot of the mountain
Spain is one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, and it’s hard to argue with the domineering feel of Madrid, the charm of Barcelona, or the pull of the many seaside resorts such as Alicante or Valencia.
However, a hidden charm in the country’s bustling jewel is Granada, a small city that rests upon the slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Sitting at 738 metres above sea level, it is the meeting place of four rivers; the Darro, the Genil, the Monachil and the Beiro.
The city is compact but easily travelled on foot. It is steeped in history, being home to numerous Spanish-Islamic heritage sites, and with a Moorish and Christian culture.
When here, visit the Alhambra palace grounds, catch views of the city from the Albayzín neighbourhood, the Alcaiceria marketplace and the city’s eye-catching Cathedral.
1. Ljubljana (Slovenia) – a city of culture, heritage, history and charm
It was tough, with the many cities we could have chosen from, but in the end, we decided that Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital, is the number one lesser-known city in Europe that everyone should visit.
The city came to be in and around the 12th century, and is the perfect mix of city beauty but town-like charm and chill, and is engrained in multiculturalism thanks to its German, Mediterranean and Slovenian heritage.
Both Baroque and Renaissance-age buildings define the old town. The city is overlooked by the ever-present medieval castle and is protected by numerous green spots, such as Tivoli Park, while small, indigenous markets grab a considerable hold of the city.
History lives side by side with its residents, thanks to its museums and World War I and II memorials. It is partitioned by Ljubjanica River, which moves silently below the ‘Triple Bridge’ in the heart of the city centre.