A European tour is something of a rite of passage for most travelers. Whether you go while you’re young or leave it until later in life, jaunting around some of Europe’s most famed metropolises is likely on your bucket list.
You’ve probably had many people tell you that you must go to London, or you absolutely have to check out Berlin. Some European cities are just that iconic. But let’s face it. Most of the places that people rattle off as being “must-sees” are actually a little bit overhyped. Paris is cool, but it’s also crowded and dirty. And who doesn’t have a picture with the Eiffel tower hanging out on their Insta feed?
Some European cities get all the love. Europe is huge, with many different countries and cultures in a small vicinity. Places like Estonia, Slovenia, and even hidden spots in the tried-and-true tourist countries don’t always get the attention they deserve from travelers.
We’ve picked 10 of the most overplayed European destinations you can scratch off your bucket list. Then we chose 10 lesser-known European locales where you can get off the beaten path. Strike out on your own, and have an amazingly unique vacation that will make your friends jealous!
20 (Overhyped) Paris Is No Longer En Vogue
Paris usually tops bucket lists for European travelers. It’s a city with a long and storied history. Some people even consider it one of the most romantic cities in Europe. Where else can you sip coffees in a cute cafe?
Actually, you can find cute cafés almost anywhere in Europe. Better yet, you probably won’t need to put up with the unsightly trash strewn through the streets, or use the strong scent of coffee to mask some of the more unsavory smells of the infamous capital. The best part? You can skip the lines for weary tourist traps like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.
19 (Underrated) Visit The Slovenian Venice - Piran
The town of Piran, Slovenia, is sometimes compared to Venice. If you’re looking for an alternative to Italy's overplayed city, book yourself a trip to Piran.
Even if you’re not a fan of Venice, you’ll find Piran a pleasant alternative to many of the larger European tourist destinations. The picture-perfect town, with all of its colorful medieval buildings, is located on a peninsula and surrounded by water.
Visit the Church of St. George or head to Tartini Square. You may also want to spend some time exploring the old port, which may seem more like an open-air museum than anything else.
18 (Overhyped) If We Put The Leaning Tower Back, There Will Be No Reason To Go To Pisa
You’ve probably seen plenty of snaps from tourists visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and most of them follow the same model. Using a perspective trick, they make it look like they’re pushing the tower back into place.
Thing is, if someone managed to do that, there wouldn’t really be any reason to even go to Pisa! The city is in the middle of nowhere, and the oddly angled tower is one of its few draws. We can likely agree we’ve seen enough “I put the tower back in place!” pics now, right? Skip Pisa, and check out some of Italy’s other gorgeous cities.
17 (Underrated) Forget Santorini. This Island Is A Favorite With Locals
You can imagine most locals prefer not to holiday in areas like Santorini, which is overrun with foreign tourists. Places like Mykonos are also out, especially if you’re traveling with a family. So where do the locals go?
Many of them hop a short ferry ride from Athens to the island of Andros. Follow their lead, and you’ll miss the crowds. There’s plenty of deserted beaches where you can kick back and relax. Check out the coastal town of Chora, or visit some of the local museums in the town of Andros itself. You can also visit the Sariza spring or the ancient city of Palaeopolis.
16 (Overhyped) Be Ready To Party If You Go To Mykonos
There are some really lovely places to visit in Greece. Unfortunately, some of them have become incredibly overhyped by incoming travelers. Santorini is beautiful, if you can look past the throngs of tourists.
The same is true of the island of Mykonos, which has become a premier destination for party people. If you’re ready to whoop it up, Mykonos might be a great destination for you. Otherwise, you might find yourself grumbling as you fight for the last patch of sand on a crowded beach. If you want a lower-key beach vacation where you can really take in the place you’re visiting, there are many other islands in Greece.
15 (Underrated) Discover Some Of Spain’s Lesser-Known History In This City
If you’re trying to pick a vacation destination in Spain, you’re probably trying to choose between Barcelona and Madrid. It’s a bit like a soccer match, but we’re going to throw another option in for you. Put Granada on your bucket list.
Located deep in the south of Spain, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada is steeped in Moorish history. For centuries during the Middle Ages, it was the seat of Moorish Spain, and the Islamic influence can still be seen and felt all over the city today. From the ruins of majestic mosques to the Alhambra palace grounds, Granada will transport you to a whole new world.
14 (Overhyped) Amsterdam Attracts Some Seedy People
There are many things to like about Amsterdam. It’s relatively pretty, with its mix of architecture and bridges over canals. The local food seems to revolve around waffles and riding a bike is one of the best ways to get around the city.
Unfortunately, Amsterdam has something of a reputation internationally. Many tourists descend on the Red Light District, and others travel to experience the progressive cafes. Given this, you can imagine the tourism scene in Amsterdam tends to attract a certain kind of tourist. Add in unpredictable weather and line-ups around every corner, and this European capital should be a hard pass for most people.
13 (Underrated) This French City Is A Great Alternative To Paris
You’ve decided to skip Paris, but you still want to explore French history and culture. One of the places you might want to check out is Lille.
Lille has been gifted with history, food, art, culture, and nightlife. Basically, everything you’d find in Paris is here, except maybe the Eiffel Tower and the crowds. In fact, it’s even quieter in the summer, when all of the university students are on vacation themselves.
Sign up for a walking tour and explore the city’s museums and sites, all located conveniently around the city center. The Palais des Beaux-Arts has the second-largest art collection in France, so you won’t even miss the Louvre.
12 (Overhyped) Cannes Is A Glorified Beach Town
If it weren’t for the annual film festival, which attracts many of the world’s leading celebrities and movie-lovers, a lot of people would have never even heard of this French Riviera resort town.
Cannes has long had a reputation for being a luxe and exclusive destination, built around things like the film festival and an annual yacht race. At the end of the day, though, Cannes is just another beach town. Like most other spots on the French Riviera, it’s also overly crowded during the summer months. Take a gamble on a lesser-known locale. You probably won’t be disappointed if you skip Cannes.
11 (Underrated) Ljubljana Might Be Eastern Europe’s Prettiest Capital
When we said skip Budapest, we weren’t kidding. If you want a pretty Eastern European capital to visit, you can’t go wrong with Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. A medieval castle dominates the skyline, which is filled with colorful medieval buildings and church spires.
The city itself blends multiple cultures, and it has a long history, dating back to the Roman empire. Visit the archaeological ruins of a Roman bath, or, for something more modern, pay a visit to the cathedral.
You should visit soon, however, as Ljubljana is quickly becoming a popular pick for European travelers looking for something different.
10 (Overhyped) Rome Might Be The Most Overhyped City
Who doesn’t want to visit Rome? It’s instantly recognizable, and the seat of the Roman empire has so much history behind it. There’s the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, and Trevi Fountain. The list goes on, and there’s plenty to see for those interested in some more modern history too. The Vatican is also a stone’s throw away.
Rome is also notorious for a few things, including crowds, pickpockets, and blistering summer heat. If you must visit, go in the spring or fall, when you can avoid the worst of the heat and the crowds. Otherwise, you’ll find plenty of other Roman ruins scattered about Europe.
9 (Underrated) Visit The Capital Of Georgia To Get Off The Beaten Path
The small, Eastern European country of Georgia has been off the radar for many tourists for years. Only recently has word gotten out about this fantastic tourist destination.
Georgia itself is still off the beaten path. Tbilisi, its capital, is nestled in the Caucasus Mountains. It easily combines tradition and modernity, with Art Nouveau buildings lining twisting alleyways in the Old Town. Explore a traditional market or two. Foodies should also take note. The cuisine here mixes influences from Turkey, Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Skip some of the more well-known European capitals, and book a trip to Tbilisi instead.
8 (Overhyped) Budapest Is Best For Beginners
If you’ve never been to a European capital set on water before, Budapest is a great place to start. Otherwise, it’s pretty much standard fare for European capital cities. Yes, the parliament buildings are an architectural wonder, but beyond that, there’s not much unique to look at.
Plenty of other European cities have a similar setup. Many of them do it better too, offering more convenient ways to get around than on foot. If you’re itching to see some of Eastern Europe, there are many other, lesser-known capitals that are just as pretty. Plus, you’ll escape the ever-present crowds.
7 (Underrated) Experience Tuscan Charm In This Medieval Town - San Gimignano
Rome and Pisa are overhyped. Florence has a rich history, but it’s also a bustling tourist hub. Venice has said they don’t even want tourists anymore, as the industry is causing so many problems for locals. Where in Italy can you go?
Why not check out the charming medieval town of San Gimignano? In days of yore, the ruling family built 72 tower houses, 14 of which survive to this day. Climb to the top of the tallest tower, and survey the Tuscan countryside. Afterwards, head to the nearby city of Siena for more sightseeing. Cap off your day with a glass of local vino.
6 (Overhyped) You Might Not Have Heard Of Zadar, Croatia
You might wonder how a place like Zadar, Croatia, could possibly be overhyped. After all, it’s not a well-known tourist trap like Rome or Paris. The problem, however, is that Zadar has been named one of the best European travel destinations.
Once you visit, you’ll quickly wonder how this city got the designation. There are relatively few attractions. One is the Il Saluto al Sole, a circle of solar panels that provide light for the beach strip at night. Aside from that, there isn’t much to see or do in the city. Split, Dubrovnik, and Zagreb are all better options.
5 (Underrated) Pick This Often-Forgotten European Capital For A Unique Experience - Vaduz, Liechtenstein
You’ve probably forgotten about Liechtenstein. The tiny European country is dwarfed by its larger neighbors, both in size and in terms of tourism. Choosing Liechtenstein as your vacation destination will make for a unique experience, as you escape the crowds and tourist traps of more overhyped European destinations.
Check out the capital city, Vaduz, located near the border with Switzerland. It boasts history dating all the way back to the 1100s. You can also visit Vaduz castle, which is the official home of the prince of Liechtenstein, and the St. Florin Cathedral. The surrounding mountains and forests provide opportunities for hiking, skiing, and other activities.
4 (Overhyped) Munich Has Sausages And Steins (And Not Much More)
Munich is the capital of Bavaria, in the south of Germany. Bavarian culture has given us many great things, like Bavarian cream, white sausage, and many different kinds of beer. They’re also the originators of Oktoberfest, so if you’re into that sort of thing, Munich is a great destination.
Once you’ve tested a few beers and tried some sausage, you’ll find there’s not a lot more to Munich. There are a few sites like Hofbrauhaus, and there is the BMW Museum, but tourists may find themselves bored after a couple of days here. The best advice? See Munich during a stopover on your way to another European destination.
3 (Underrated) This European Capital Is A UNESCO World Heritage Site - Valletta, Malta
Malta is a bit like Liechtenstein. It’s a tiny European country almost everyone forgets about. Once you’ve discovered it, however, you won’t soon forget it again.
Valletta, the capital city, is probably the top spot to visit in the country. The city is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its multitude of palaces, cathedrals, and forts. Don’t worry about getting around from site to site, either. Valletta’s small enough to explore entirely on foot.
A hit list of sites to visit include the Baroque St. John’s Co-Cathedral, the Upper Barrakka Gardens, and Casa Rocca Piccola, which was once the seat of royalty.
2 (Overhyped) This City Is Quintessentially Swiss - Geneva
Switzerland has built its international reputation on handling large amounts of money securely and reliable timepieces. Security and reliability are great, but they can also be a bit, well, bland.
That might be the impression you’re left with if you choose to visit Geneva. Surrounded by the Alps and located on the shores of Lake Geneva, the city is often touted as one of Europe’s must-visit places. Although it’s pretty, there’s not much to see or do here, and it will still cost to visit. Prices are relatively inflated since the UN is in town. Better options include Bern and Zurich.
1 (Underrated) Tallinn Is A City For All Seasons
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have only recently started making waves in tourist circles again. Long hidden behind the Iron Curtain, cities like Tallinn have been some of Europe’s best-kept secrets for decades now.
Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is an exceptionally beautiful city. It seamlessly blends old and new, with skyscrapers standing side-by-side with ancient church spires. The city is located on the coast of the Baltic Sea, which means there are plenty of beaches to visit during the summer. A wintertime trip can be just as magical. It doesn’t matter when you visit Tallinn—you’ll be in for a treat.
References: Traveller.com.au, Thrillist, HuffingtonPost, AdventureinYou, CultureTrip, TripstoDiscover.