15 Stunning European Cities You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

This summer, travel in Europe is expected to be busier than ever. If you’re not looking forward to fighting the crowds on your vacation, consider adding these 15 underrated European cities to your itinerary – they’re off the typical tourist path and just as impressive as some of the continent’s busiest and most bustling capitals.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

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Slovenia’s charming capital, Ljubljana, is located between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea. Its compact Old Town has elegant architecture, colorful façades, and countless bridges spanning the Ljubljanica River that help make it walkable. Ljubljana’s relaxed atmosphere and vibrant cultural scene will impress you, and make it a delightful destination for urban explorers and nature lovers alike.

Salzburg, Austria

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The birthplace of Mozart and setting for “The Sound of Music,” Salzburg, Austria exudes timeless elegance with its baroque architecture, a stunning alpine backdrop, and an undeniably rich musical heritage. The city’s UNESCO-listed Old Town is a treasure trove of historic sites, including the magnificent Salzburg Cathedral and Hohensalzburg Fortress.

Girona, Spain

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Not far from Barcelona, the small town of Girona is a city steeped in history, culture, and Catalan charm. Its well-preserved Old Town is a labyrinth of narrow streets, ancient city walls, and medieval landmarks, including the stunning Cathedral of Saint Mary.  Many visitors only explore it as a day trip from Barcelona, but it deserves much more time to enjoy it properly.

Porto, Portugal

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Portugal’s second-largest city, Porto is a vibrant metropolis renowned for its historic center, port wine production, and gorgeous riverside location. Its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a maze of narrow alleys, colorful buildings, and ornate churches, including the iconic Clerigos Tower.

Český Krumlov, Czech Republic

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Nestled in the picturesque Bohemian region of the Czech Republic, the small town of Český Krumlov enchants visitors with its medieval charm and scenic beauty. Its centerpiece is the majestic Český Krumlov Castle, perched high above the Vltava River and inviting travelers to step back in time and immerse themselves in its rich history and culture.

Tallinn, Estonia

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You heard it here first – Tallinn, Estonia is one of the most underrated capital cities in Europe. Medieval architecture and an enchanting atmosphere characterize the city, home to quaint cobblestone streets, ancient city walls, and a vibrant modern culture with trendy cafes, hip bars, and a thriving arts scene.

Bruges, Belgium

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Skip overcrowded Amsterdam and head to Bruges instead. This city, also known as the “Venice of the North,” invites visitors to take a boat tour along the canals, sample exquisite Belgian chocolate, and admire masterpieces by Flemish artists like Jan van Eyck.

Bergen, Norway

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Bergen is a postcard-perfect city with a rich maritime history and stunning natural scenery. Its colorful wooden houses, UNESCO-listed Bryggen wharf, and lively fish market reflect its centuries-old seafaring traditions. Bergen is a great addition to time in Norway, whether you’re embarking on a wider Scandanavia tour or heading out on a cruise through Norway’s fjords.

Tbilisi, Georgia

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Tbilisi, the capital city of the country of Georgia, is a city where East meets West. Its diverse architecture reflects its long history of Persian, Arab, Ottoman, and Russian influences. It is also known as a destination that is exceedingly welcoming to digital nomads, which has led to a vibrant and diverse community of remote workers that call the city home.

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Sarajevo, with its rich multicultural heritage, is often referred to as the “Jerusalem of Europe.” The city bears scars from its tumultuous past but exudes resilience and hope while boasting historic mosques, churches, and synagogues, lively markets, and a thriving cultural scene.

Riga, Latvia

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Riga, the capital of Latvia, is known for its stunning Art Nouveau architecture and rich Hanseatic history. The city’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring cobbled streets, medieval churches, and charming squares.

Bologna, Italy

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Often overshadowed by Rome, Florence, and Venice, Bologna is a food lover’s paradise and a cultural hub in the center of Italy. Home to the oldest university in Europe, Bologna enchants travelers with its vibrant street markets and beautiful medieval architecture. Of course, foodies flock here to try some of the most famous Italian dishes.

Ghent, Belgium

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While Bruges and Brussels tend to steal the spotlight with visitors in the Netherlands, Ghent offers a perfect blend of medieval charm and modern vitality – with just a fraction of the crowds. The historic city is very well-preserved, with its picturesque canals and vibrant cultural scene making it a true hidden treasure.

Valletta, Malta

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Valletta is the smallest capital city in Europe and the cultural center of the Mediterranean island of Malta. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and feels like a living museum of Baroque architecture, packed with historical sites, including the stunning Grand Master’s Palace.

Matera, Italy

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Hidden away in the southern Italian region of Basilicata, Matera is an ancient city carved into the rugged landscape of a dramatic canyon. Its Sassi districts, comprised of cave dwellings and rock churches, are among the oldest inhabited settlements in the world. Matera’s timeless beauty and cultural significance offer a truly unforgettable experience off the beaten path in Italy.

Jose Rojas Avila

José Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based editor, content marketer, and web developer. He is the co-founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana and has written for publications like MSN and Thrive Global. José is a Havana, Cuba native and serial entrepreneur. Find him scouting out the best hiking trails around town and teaching himself yet another programming language.