When you are planning your visit to Europe, you probably think of all the cities you are going to visit: Paris, Rome, Berlin, and London (to name a few). However, why should you visit the same cities that everyone else is going to be visiting? Why would you want to fight crowds of people (regardless of the time of year) to see the same things that you can see in a picture on the Internet?
Take a trip off the beaten path of European cities, and experience all that Europe, as a continent, and each country, individually, have to offer tourists. Whether you are looking for local art and cuisine or a trip that will take you back in time, you are sure to find your dream vacation in some of the smaller cities of Europe.
This list of twenty cities will give you all of the information that you need to plan your trip to Europe, while keeping you out of the major cities and more to the smaller cities that have just as much (if not more) to offer you and your travelling companions. Cross Europe the way it was supposed to be traveled, by visiting these 20 small cities that lie off the radar of most travelers.
20 Cork, Ireland
Known to locals as the second capital of Ireland, Cork, Ireland has a laid back atmosphere and the locals are very welcoming to tourists. The city is located on a seaport, and there are two channels of a river that run through the middle of Cork. If you are into old nautical history, the South Mall has a lot of old boats and sea equipment for you to tour. For a religious perspective, take a gander at the St. Finn Barre’s Cathedral, which is a French Gothic-inspired Cathedral with elaborate carvings. The best way to see Cork is to take a walking tour of the city, which will give you access to plenty of activities throughout your stay.
19 Helsinki, Finland
Although it is the capital of the country, Helsinki, Finland is a little-known city that has a lot to offer tourists. The city sits seaside, and has a number of islands and parks open to tourists for visiting on a daily basis. The city is best seen by foot, and offers plenty of nice neighborhoods to stroll through. As you are walking through the city of Helsinki, be sure to take in the remarkable art nouveau architecture that helps define the city. If you are a foodie, you will love Helsinki's food culture, from pop up restaurants and food truck-style eateries to the Helsinki Food Festival.
18 Budapest, Hungary
Budapest, Hungary is known as a food capital of the region, and offers a number of fine dining options for those tourists that really define their vacation by what they eat. But Budapest is more than food, and is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, offering tourists a glimpse of baroque, neoclassical, and art nouveau buildings and design. The Royal Palace houses the Hungarian National Gallery, Castle Museum, and National Szechenyi Library, all great places for a historical perspective on Hungarian culture. For those tourists that seek out UNESCO Heritage Sites, the city center of Budapest has been designated as such.
17 Gothenburg, Sweden
A seaside town, Gothenburg, Sweden and its archipelago are great for seaside and water activities. If you are on the lookout for the freshest fish, then the Feskekyrka will offer you some fresh fish as well as a famous restaurant and food market. Gothenburg offers tourists a vibrant night life and entertainment scene, as well as a culinary perspective unlike anywhere else in Sweden. For those that love to shop, there is plenty of shopping throughout Gothenburg, including boutique shopping. Gothenburg really has a lot to offer tourists from around the world that are looking for something that is a little off the beaten path.
16 Granada, Spain
Granada, Spain is chock full of interesting Churches, monuments, and museums that are a large draw for tourists from around the world. If you are looking for a city that has a visually stunning panoramic view of mountains, then Granada would be the place because it is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Granada's nightlife is typical of Spain, that is to say that it is very vibrant and upbeat, and not to be missed if you are the kind of person looking for a good time that does not end when the sun goes down. With its small city center ,everything is readily accessible in Granada.
15 Maastricht, Holland
Maastricht, Holland is a beautiful city to visit, located on both sides of the Meuse River in the southeast part of the Netherlands. Because this is such an old city, there are a number of amazing architecturally, historically, and culturally diverse and significant buildings and structures throughout the city. The city also happens to be home to the signing of the treaty that formed the European Union in 1992, making it historically significant to the state of Europe. The best way to get around Maastricht is to take advantage of their great and efficient bus system. For those looking to dine out, Maastricht has a number of great dining options.
14 Bucharest, Romania
Nicknamed "Little Paris," Bucharest, Romania is a city of lights and wonders and a vibrant night life. If you are looking for a unique city to visit, then Bucharest should be near the top of your list, as it is full of historic buildings that draw tourists from all over the world. Take advantage of the walking tours of the city, and gain insight into the history and culture of Bucharest and Romania as a whole. Also, be sure to visit the numerous parks throughout the city which offer tourists and locals, alike, a place to relax and just prepare for the next adventure of the day.
13 Genoa, Italy
If you like the sea and the ocean, then you will like Italy's largest seaport: Genoa, Italy. If you like Medieval European history, then you will really like the largest city center in the world that still retains an air of the Middle Ages. In Genoa, you will be amazed as you wander the narrow passages and alleyways through the center of the city, taking in the beauty and grandeur of a time gone by. There are also a number of "secret" beaches along the coast that may be hidden, but are still open to the public. Also, Genoa has its own style of Italian cuisine that helps set the area apart from the rest of the country.
12 Odense, Denmark
Are you a true foodie? If you are, then Odense, Denmark is the place for you because it has more restaurants and dining options per capita than any other city in Denmark. Here, you can try everything from traditional Danish treats and foods to cuisine from around the world. Once you have satisfied your hunger, be sure to wander the streets of Denmark's oldest city, taking in the rich history and culture, including old Norse and Viking mythological places. Odense is a city that has a lot to offer anyone visiting, whether they are looking for food or history and culture.
11 Basel, Switzerland
Basel, Switzerland is a cultural and historical center in Switzerland, offering up some 40 museums to help you learn more about the city, the region, and the country. The large open square market is perfect for perusing or buying trinkets and gifts, making it a huge draw for tourists from everywhere. Along the streets of Basel, you will find antique book shops mingled with modern clothing designers as you shop old town. The Botanical Gardens and numerous parks and open spaces along the Rhine River make the perfect setting for an afternoon picnic or a place to relax and unwind after a busy day of shopping.
10 Manchester, UK
Manchester, UK is a vibrant, upbeat city that is away from most of the hustle of other British cities. If you are looking for a unique bar scene, then the city center of Manchester is for you. There are also a number of specialized restaurants, museums, galleries, and hotels located in the city center. Outside of the city center you will find great shopping and sightseeing among the boroughs of Manchester. For history buffs, you will find that Manchester was home to the industrial revolution that changed the world as we know it. Also, regardless of the time of year you visit, you are sure to find some festival or other activity going on.
9 Piran, Slovenia
Piran, Slovenia is situated on a peninsula, which will allow you to experience all that the coastline of Slovenia has to offer. The city of Piran is often referred to as "Little Venice" because of its influence during the time of the Venetian Republic. As you wander the cobblestone streets of Piran, you will be sure to be whisked away to a bygone era when the city was a huge part of history. The walls of the city date back to the 7th century when they were erected to protect the city from bands of marauding barbarians. Piran also has a deep and rich religious culture and history that you will want to experience.
8 Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
The Old Town of Luxembourg City, Luxembourg is chock full of sites to see. From the UNESCO Heritage Site to old houses and museums, you are sure to find something that will intrigue and excite you. If not, you can always walk the short distance to the water front to experience one of a number of great cafes and other dining options. For those seeking a cultural experience, Luxembourg City has plenty to offer, including a couple of buildings that the EU uses as part of the governing body of Europe. For great dining in Luxembourg City, be sure to visit the area behind the Royal Palace.
7 Gomel, Belarus
Gomel, Belarus is a unique city to visit for anyone looking to experience Belarus as it really is meant to be experienced. Inside Homel Park, behind the palace, you will experience all that the city has to offer in a neat little package that stretches from the Sozh River. Here, there are small cafes to dine in and a small amusement park for kids of all ages to enjoy. There is even a beach to be enjoyed during the summer months. If you are looking for dining options, then take a tour through vul Savetskaya which offers up some of the best dining in the region.
6 Avignon, France
Avignon, France has so much to offer that you will need to spend several days visiting the city to be sure to experience it all. From the largest arts festival in France to a history dating back to the Middle Ages, Avignon may be more exciting than other places in France. If you really like museums and art, then there is a pass you can procure that will give you a discount on the entry fee to some of the best attractions that Avignon has to offer. The local cuisine is unlike anything you will find elsewhere in France, and we all know that is saying something.
5 Bremen City, Germany
Known as a very welcoming city, Bremen City, Germany is a great place to experience Germany outside of much larger and well known cities. Feel like losing yourself in the culture of old Bremen? Take a walk through the maze of alleys that make up the Schnoor, the old fisherman's quarter of the city, and is full of boutique shopping, restaurants, and galleries that are all sure to delight any tourist. Those tourists into history will be glad they visited the Marktplatz with its Medieval statue. For those that prefer shopping, the Schlachte is a waterfront promenade with shops and bars.
4 Ankara, Turkey
Turkey may not be known as an ideal place in Europe to visit, but the city of Ankara is really known as a fun and youthful city. With Roman ruins to explore (Turkey used to be a Christian territory and part of the Eastern Roman Empire) you will feel like you are across the Mediterranean Sea in Italy. The European cuisine of Ankara is not to be missed, although it pairs nicely with the Oriental (Western Asia and Islamic) food that is more common. The Kizilay area of Ankara is very popular among students and young people, so if you are looking for a good place to have some fun at night, this is the place.
3 San Sebastian, Spain
San Sebastian, Spain is considered to be the Camino of the North. The Camino is a walking pathway that pilgrims have used for over 1,000 years. In San Sebastian you have the opportunity to take a cruise in the beautiful waters that surround the harbor, or you can try your hand at surfing the waves. If you love to eat, then San Sebastian is the place for you as it is known as one of the culinary capitals of the world, boasting several Michelin starred restaurants. After you have finished your meal, be sure to check out the ample nightlife that the city has to offer.
2 Bruges, Belgium
If you are looking for a beautiful city that is full of history and culture, and easy to get around, then consider Bruges, Belgium. This wonderful little city has everything that you will find in larger cities, but at a slower pace that is more amenable to those tourists that really do not want the "big city" experience that is so common when travelling around Europe. The warm, friendly atmosphere of Bruges is sure to welcome you into the city where you will find art and architecture, and enough history to fill multiple days. Bruges is a great place to visit in Belgium if you want to experience the country without experiencing crowds.
1 Lucca, Italy
Located on the plains at the foot of the Alps, Lucca, Italy has just as much history and art as, say, Rome, but the city seems to be in a completely different world. Tourists and locals, alike, are free to walk around the pedestrian walkway that once surrounded and protected the city from invaders. The ruins of ancient Rome seem to stand intermingled with the ruins of the Medieval Churches throughout the city. Lucca may not be on every traveler's wish list of Italian cities to visit, but that adds to the charm as you are not going to be fighting crowds.