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  • Writer's pictureMeredith Strack

5 European Cities That Aren't on Your Radar But Should Be

Are you looking for unique travel destinations in Europe?

If so, you're in luck!


From the vibrant culture of Budapest, Hungary to the stunning architecture of Gdańsk, Poland, there are plenty of unexpected European gems waiting to be discovered.


Join us as we explore 5 cities that aren't on your radar but should be, and get ready to experience a different, more authentic travel experience!



Budapest, Hungary

Nestled on the banks of the Danube River, Budapest is one of Europe's most underrated cities. It may not have the glamor of Paris or the bustle of Berlin, but Budapest's charm lies in its rich history and unique culture. With a blend of Gothic and Art Nouveau architecture, it's a city that looks like a page taken from a storybook.

Budapest has a fascinating past that dates back to the Roman Empire.

  • The city has been invaded and occupied by numerous civilizations, including the Ottomans, Austrians, and Soviets.

  • Each regime has left its mark on the city, resulting in an eclectic mix of architecture and cultural influences.

Despite its past, Budapest is now a vibrant and dynamic city that's teeming with energy and creativity. Visitors can stroll along the Danube promenade, visit the famous thermal baths, or take a leisurely bike ride through the city's picturesque parks. Be sure to visit the Fisherman's Bastion, a stunning neo-Gothic terrace that offers panoramic views of the city.

From here, visitors can see the spires of the Parliament and the famous Chain Bridge.


When to Go: If you're planning a trip to Budapest, the best time to visit is during the spring and fall when the weather is mild, and the crowds are smaller. However, if you're a fan of winter sports and outdoor activities, you may want to visit during the winter months when the city is blanketed in snow and ice-skating rinks pop up around town.



Gdańsk, Poland

Nestled on the Baltic coast, Gdańsk is a stunning port city in Northern Poland. The city is steeped in rich history, having been an integral port city for centuries and playing a pivotal role in the outbreak of World War II. The city's Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, filled with stunning Gothic architecture and winding alleyways.


Visitors to Gdańsk should take a stroll down Long Street (Długa Street), the main street in the Old Town, and admire the colorful houses and intricate facades. A visit to St. Mary's Church is a must, as it is the largest brick church in the world and has a breathtaking interior filled with stunning artwork. One of the city's biggest draws is its food scene, with delicious seafood dishes like smoked salmon and herring served fresh from the Baltic Sea. And for those with a sweet tooth, Gdańsk is also famous for its amber, which can be found in various forms of jewelry and trinkets throughout the city.


When to Go: The best time to visit Gdańsk is during the summer months, from June to August, when the weather is warm and sunny and outdoor cafes line the streets. However, the city is also magical in the winter, with the Christmas Market in the Old Town being a popular attraction.



Bratislava, Slovakia

Nestled on the banks of the Danube River, Bratislava is a charming city with a rich history that dates back to Roman times. It may not be as well-known as other European cities, but it’s definitely worth adding to your travel list. One of the city’s most prominent landmarks is the striking Bratislava Castle. This medieval fortress was once the residence of Hungarian kings and it offers stunning panoramic views of the city and surrounding areas. History buffs will also appreciate St. Martin’s Cathedral, a beautiful Gothic church that houses the tomb of Saint John of Capistrano.


But it’s not just history that makes Bratislava worth a visit. The city’s charming Old Town is filled with quaint streets, colorful buildings, and vibrant cafés and restaurants. Wander through the maze of alleyways and stumble upon hidden gems like the Grassalkovich Palace, a stunning 18th-century palace that now serves as the official residence of the President of Slovakia.


When to Go: One of the best times to visit Bratislava is during the summer months, when the city comes alive with music festivals, outdoor concerts, and open-air markets.

But the holiday season is also a magical time to visit, with the city’s Christmas markets offering a festive atmosphere and delicious treats. Don’t let Bratislava fly under your radar – this hidden gem is just waiting to be discovered.



Matera, Italy

Matera, a city in southern Italy, may not be as well-known as some of the country's more famous cities, but it's a hidden gem worth visiting. With its stunning architecture, ancient caves, and incredible cuisine, this city is a must-visit destination for travelers looking for an authentic Italian experience.


The history of Matera goes back to prehistoric times. The city is famous for its Sassi di Matera, a collection of ancient cave dwellings that have been carved into the hillside. The Sassi date back to the Paleolithic era and have been continuously inhabited for thousands of years. In fact, the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993, making it a great place for history buffs to explore. Matera is also known for its cuisine, which features traditional Italian dishes with a regional twist. You can sample everything from homemade pasta to fresh seafood to delicious pastries. The city is also famous for its wine, with a variety of local wines available at restaurants and bars throughout the city.


When to Go: The best time to visit Matera is in the spring or fall. The weather is mild, and the crowds are smaller, making it the perfect time to explore the city's historic sites and enjoy its delicious food and wine.



Trondheim, Norway

Nestled on the Trondheimsfjord, Trondheim is one of the oldest and most charming cities in Norway. Its rich history dates back to the Viking Age, and it served as the country's capital during the Middle Ages. Today, Trondheim boasts a vibrant cultural scene, bustling streets, and some of the best-preserved medieval architecture in Northern Europe.


One of the city's top attractions is the Nidaros Cathedral, Norway's largest and most important medieval building. It houses the shrine of St. Olav, the patron saint of Norway, and is a symbol of the country's rich Christian heritage. The cathedral is also a great starting point for exploring Trondheim's cobbled streets, lined with traditional wooden houses and quaint shops. Another must-visit spot is the iconic Gamle Bybro, or Old Town Bridge, which spans the Nidelva River. This 17th-century bridge is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Trondheim, and it offers breathtaking views of the city and its surroundings. If you're a fan of outdoor activities, Trondheim won't disappoint. The city is surrounded by majestic mountains and fjords, which offer endless opportunities for hiking, skiing, and kayaking. In the winter, you can even catch a glimpse of the northern lights, one of nature's most spectacular displays.


When to Go: The best time to visit Trondheim is during the summer months when the days are long and the weather is mild. June and July are particularly popular, as they offer the added bonus of the Midnight Sun, but December is also a great time to visit as the city is filled with Christmas markets and festive cheer.



If you're looking for an off-the-beaten-path adventure in Europe, these five cities are worth considering. From Budapest's rich history and culture to Gdańsk's beautiful architecture and cuisine, each destination offers a unique experience that will leave a lasting impression.


Let us help you book your next trip today and embark on a journey full of unforgettable moments!


 

My name is Meredith Strack -- Adventure and Family Travel Advisor

Meredith loves the excitement of planning travel adventures! She is married and has three young children, ages 3, 5, and 7. She has traveled coast to coast through the United States, and has slept in 47 different states. She has visited 33 countries on 6 different continents, and can't wait to add more to her list each year. Her bucket list includes seeing each of the

7 New World Wonders, and she is so close to completing the challenge!


Meredith specializes in Caribbean/Mexico, European, and Alaskan/Hawaiian experiences.

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