So you’ve done Paris. You’ve walked La Rambla in Barcelona. You’ve fallen in love with the streets of Trastevere in Rome. What now? If you’re looking for something more from your next trip to Europe, try these seven offbeat European cities and find something completely different.
1. Belgrade, Serbia
One of Eastern Europe’s coolest cities, Belgrade is a youthful, buzzing metropolis with plenty to see and do. One of the most interesting parts of this sprawling capital is centred around a street named Skadarlija, otherwise known as its Bohemian Quarter, an area fuelled by artists and creatives. Dotted with bars and restaurants, this is a good spot to stroll by day or night.
Before you fly to Belgrade, don’t forget to read up on the years of unrest this part of Europe went through in the 1990s – an important part of Belgrade’s history to remember while you’re exploring the city.
2. San Sebastian, Spain
Tucked away in the northeast of Spain, San Sebastian is often overshadowed by other major Spanish cities like Madrid or those that lie on the sunny south shores. This coastal beauty should not be ignored, however, as it’s home to buckets of authentic Spanish culture, without all the downfalls of mass tourism.
There are two things one should not miss while in San Sebastian: the phenomenal coastal walks – which lead you out into the countryside surrounding the city and to jaw-dropping views – and the pintxos. San Sebastian is world-famous for its food, and this mouth-watering style of tapas is the jewel in its crown.
3. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Also bearing the scars from the past conflict in Eastern Europe, Sarajevo is ruffled up here and there but that’s not to say it’s worthy of being overlooked. This city is not only fascinating because of its history – an element visible in the buildings covered in bullet holes – it’s also got a brimming nightlife scene, stretches of pretty wide streets lined with cafes, and a picturesque, cobbled Old Town to walk through. Hop on a flight to Sarajevo to experience it all.
4. Palermo, Sicily
Ornate but also a little rough around the edges, Palermo in Sicily is not your average Italian city. Palermo fights against a bit of a bad reputation as petty crime can be an issue (like many European cities) but with a bit of savvy street knowledge it’s a perfectly safe place to be. We find its scruffy, crumbling nature rather charming, actually.
Architecture is a major player when it comes to best things to do in Palermo; keep your eyes peeled for the cathedrals and palazzos, many of which are sure to dazzle.
5. Athens, Greece
A fair few people come to Athens each year to visit the city’s ancient ruins, but what we recommend is that you catch a flight to Athens to experience its other gems – street art lining the walls, bustling alternative neighborhoods, and more delicious food than you can fit in your belly. Don’t just visit Athens on a brief stop-off before making your way to the country’s beaches and islands. Come here and dive in; there’s plenty to be explored.
6. Warsaw, Poland
Overshadowed by nearby picture-perfect Krakow, the Polish capital of Warsaw is often given a hard time. Since its original Old Town was bombed in World War II, many consider the rebuilt neighbourhood to be a crude replica. When walking around it, however, it’s hard not to be swept away by the colourful buildings and flourishes on the rooftops. Forever suckers for an underdog, we can’t help but love Warsaw.
The city also thrives after dark, when the chaotic nightlife takes over. Head over to the once desolate neighbourhood of Praga to find many of Warsaw’s night owls hanging out in its many shabby chic bars.
7. Dresden, Germany
Not the first city you think of when you picture Germany (probably not the second or third, either), Dresden is far from the tourist trail. The city was all but wiped out in World War II, which means people lost interest in Dresden even though it was admired by many beforehand. But officials have managed to reincarnate the city in a most spectacular way, and its devastating past has left Dresden with an interesting twist to discover while you’re here.
What would you add to this list of offbeat European cities?