Europe has soooo much to offer, it can be hard to know where to go. London? Paris? Rome? All great options, but there are some real hidden gems that shouldn’t be overlooked. Here’s my top 5 underrated cities you have to visit…
So many websites criticise Warsaw for being a concrete jungle with no character, and suggest you bypass the Polish capital and head straight to Krakow. I ignored that advice, and am so glad I did! From fantastic museums about the Warsaw uprising to the traditional milk bars in the old town, there is a surprising amount of culture left in the city even though it was flattened during World War Two. The nightlife was a complete surprise and offers everything from simple taverns specialising in craft ales to the 1 euro shot bars with every bizarre shot you could want (think gummy spiders and roasting marshmallows over your flaming shot…), Warsaw completely outdoes Krakow in the partying stakes.
“Why would you want to go to Rotterdam? Isn’t it just a smelly port?” No. It isn’t. Rotterdam is not only a foodie’s paradise, it looks more like one of the great American cities with its skyscrapers and tree lined avenues. It’s got hipster streets full of quirky bistros, amazing food markets and even a statue of Santa holding a very suspicious looking Christmas tree. OK, since you asked, it’s been given the nickname “the butt plug gnome”. What more could you possibly want?! Check my Guide to Rotterdam for more, non butt plug gnome related things to do…
Valencia is easy to miss on a Spanish road trip as it’s often shadowed by the wonderful Barcelona or the beaches of the Costas, but is definitely worth trying to squeeze in. A three hour coastal train from Barcelona or less than two hours high speed train from the capital (although book in advance for the best deals!) Valencia is easy to get to, and its warm climate means it’s the perfect summer or winter getaway. The science and culture park is world class, there’s a museum list as long as your arm, and as it’s the birthplace of paella, you definitely won’t go hungry. Oh, and there’s a bell tower with great views over the city and one of the biggest bells in Spain. Who knew.
With companies like Ryanair and Wizzair offering flights to the Bulgarian capital for less than what two pints would cost you in Dublin, now is the time to visit this Balkan gem; visit the stunning Rila Monastery, catch the cable car up to Vitosha Mountain or take in the churches and mosques in the city centre. Yes pavements tend to have random giant holes in them and yes the communist style cement block buildings in the suburbs won’t be winning any beauty contests soon, but there is a surprising amount to see and do in the city and you can easily fill five days. There’s even a dolls gallery with over 3000 of the things, if that’s your thing. If you’re thinking of visiting, here’s my list of things not to miss…
Another destination served by some extremely well priced flights, Lithuania is the gateway to the Balkan States. Whilst Estonia’s popularity is soaring with partygoers and stag dos, Vilnius is still fairly under the radar despite having a lot going for it! With ample day trips, an old town with plenty of traditional restaurants and an independent republic famed for its art and bizarre constitution slap bang in the middle of the city, it’s perfect for a long weekend – although you can definitely spend longer there if you take advantage of the day trips and museums. For more info, check out my guide to Vilnius.
Have you visited any of these underrated destinations? Let me know in the comments!