Lesser-Known European Cities
When travelling to Europe, most people visit the more famous cities like London, Paris, Rome, Athens, Berlin, and Prague. Very few people visit some of the smaller, lesser known cities and towns throughout Europe. These towns may not be as big, but they are definitely worth checking out. Here’s Bakpak Guide’s list of our ten favorite lesser-known European towns and cities that are must-sees (in no particular order):
1. The Lakes District, England
The Lakes District sits just under the Scottish border in Cumbria County. This breathtaking region envelops you with its magnificent lakes, mountains and valleys. If you’re Scotland bound, it’s a terrific and peaceful stop where you can go hiking, climbing or just unwind.
2. Antwerp, Belgium
Antwerp simultaneously offers her visitors a glance into the golden baroque age of past centuries while providing an artistic haven for cutting edge contemporary culture. When exploring the historic narrow, winding streets take in the great masterpieces of artists such as Rubens and Van Dyke, browse through countless modern galleries and shops and gawk at the world-famous diamond district. When you’re finished, you can turn in any direction to find a friendly pub or alehouse. Take a nap, then head towards the dizzying and much celebrated club scene.
3. The Hague, Netherlands
The Hague, a popular beach town and home to Holland’s Queen Beatrix, will enchant you with its colorful mix of culture, history and natural beauty. You can tour the royal stables or the Peace Palace that seats the famous International Court of Justice, and then explore the Maurithaus museum, which presides over a shimmering canal and houses Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with Pearl Earring.” Stop by one of the various flea markets or hang out at a smokers’ “coffeeshop.” Wander down to Scheveningen and stroll along its beautiful wide beaches and Victorian promenade which becomes a hopping club scene at night. For in-town nightlife, check out the bars and cafés in the “historic passage” and around the square.
4. Dijon, France
This city, southwest of Paris and north of Provence, is surrounded by pretty, tranquil medieval towns that sit in the shadow of the stunning French Alps. Dijon is the most northern town of the Burgundy region. It is a lively Renaissance city that is home to a large university and offers some of Burgundy’s premier wineries in the nearby countryside.
5. Cinque Terre, Italy
On the Northeast coast of Italy, the impressive Five Villages are a delight to any traveler. Situated between Genoa and La Spezia, these stunning villages envelop you in golden sandy beaches, steep cliffs and sapphire-colored water. Although these days the region is certainly known to many travelers, each town is still very cozy and offers a quiet haven from the big city tourism encountered in Florence or Venice. Sleep late, sit on the beach, go hiking or have a picnic. The five towns (north to south): Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore.
6. Innsbruck, Austria
With images of lederhosen, yodelers, endless snowcapped mountains and pretty little villages, Innsbruck is post-card-perfect. In the winter it is the premier destination for avid skiers, and has many excellent resorts. In the summer, feast on glorious greenery, mountain lakes and superb hiking trails. Innsbruck is filled with much history, culture, folklore and natural beauty, making it an excellent base to explore the entire region.
7. Koycegiz, Turkey
Koycegiz, translated, means small poor village. It is slowly becoming a highlight on the backpacker and independent travelers’ scene. There are many options here for the adventurous spirited traveler. Jump on a boat to Turtle Beach, where you can visit the mud baths and the Caunos ruins. Head to ‘The Waterfall’, just a mile or two out of Koycegiz, where the natural flowing stream is a great place to swim and jump off the rocks. Whitewater raft down the Dalaman River where rapids can reach up to Grade 4. Or feed your sweet tooth with homemade ice cream sold near the center of town.
8. Chora, Greece
The small whitewashed town of Chora, perched high on a hill on the island of Ios, is the center of it all. Lots of bars, cafés and nightclubs are clustered together amidst beautiful churches and squares. At night the small cobblestone streets are teeming with zealous partygoers from all over the world. During the day, relax on the beach or rent a small moped and tour the island taking in the magnificent views of the surrounding sea, cliffs and occasional palm tree.
9. Tallinn, Estonia
Estonia’s miraculous capital is bound to inspire awe. It’s an exciting, thriving center that has recently emerged from Soviet occupation, with many breathtaking Gothic buildings that have somehow escaped war damage. Tallinn’s Old Town is one of the last remaining truly medieval cities in Europe, with subterranean bars that serve locally-made vodka and absinthe and cast an enticing glow from their stone doorways. You can walk the dozens of winding, cobbled streets within the high wall and ramparts, and then stop for a cheap sandwich made on native thin, dense black bread at one of the many cafés, or “kohviks.” It remains relatively undiscovered by visitors outside of the EU.
10. Ljubljana, Slovenia
In Ljubljana travelers can experience the small town “feel” while taking advantage of this capital city’s resources, history and culture. Being centrally located in Slovenia it makes for a good base to explore the country’s mountains, lakes and caves. Partially on the Mediterranean and linking central Europe to the Balkans, a mix of Italian and Austro-Hungarian influences abound here and around Slovenia. Absorb the atmosphere with a stroll through the Baroque old town where you will find many quaint cafés along the Ljubljanica River and street performers playing tunes in the main square. The large student population provides for an active nightlife. This is a progressive place with a kind, helpful folk willing to engage in conversation in a multitude of languages.