10 Underappreciated European City Break Destinationson December 8, 2016 at 10:29 am
According to a survey by Euromonitor, London was the most popular city-break destination in Europe, followed by Paris, Istanbul, Rome and Prague. Unsurprisingly, these cities find themselves inundated with hordes of tourists throughout the year. However, while these cities certainly have practically endless portfolios of attractions to offer, there’s a lot to be said for exploring some of the more underappreciated destinations in Europe. Following are 10 of the most overlooked places for a city break:
#1. Split, Croatia
With an old town built in and around the ruins of the early fourth century Palace of Roman Emperor Diocletian, the Croatian city of split is as splendid as it is ancient. Although many holidaymakers heading for the beautiful Adriatic coast do indeed land in Split’s international airport, relatively few take the opportunity to explore the city itself. While Dubrovnik tends to get all the attention when it comes to historic towns of the Adriatic, Split is every bit as stunning, and a lot more affordable too.
#2. Bratislava, Slovakia
Bratislava is the capital and largest city of Slovakia, but it remains one of the most underappreciated capital cities in the European Union. Nonetheless, the city sports a small but postcard-perfect medieval center characterised by its immaculate cobbled streets and idyllic churches. In fact, it’s a little like a miniaturised Prague, albeit with only a tiny fraction of the number of tourists. Best of all, it’s an easily walkable city with a cosy atmosphere and no shortage of charming cafés, restaurants and pubs.
#3. Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
The cultural capital of the Herzegovina region, Mostar is home to one of the country’s most iconic landmarks; a historic sixteenth-century Ottoman bridge. The city sports a unique mix of medieval Islamic, nineteenth-century Neo-renaissance and Orthodox Christian architectural styles, and it’s home to a melting pot of different cultures. Although some visible signs of Mostar’s troubled recent pasts do remain, it is now a safe and largely recovered city with a developed tourist infrastructure.
#4. Dresden, Germany
Formerly part of East Germany, Dresden has now become an important cultural and educational centre of the region. Most of the city was destroyed during the allied bombings of the Second World War, and the famous Frauenkirche Lutheran church was only fully rebuilt in 2005. The surrounding Neumarkt square, characterised by its many baroque buildings has also undergone extensive renovation to make Dresden’s city centre a particularly imposing place to visit.
#5. Valletta, Malta
Like the small island nation it’s capital of, Valletta sports a unique history and culture, and it was also one of the first sites to be added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Although the city itself is around 500 years old, the surrounding area sports impressive remnants of some of the oldest civilisations of all, dating from almost 6,000 years ago. Valletta sports many important landmarks, such as the stunningly ornate St. John’s Cathedral and the Casa Rocca Piccola, just to name a few.
#6. Wrocław, Poland
The largest city in Western Poland, and well-served by the budget airlines, Wrocław sports a charming mix of Gothic, Renaissance and nineteenth-century architecture in an easily walkable centre. Known for its high living standards, colourful markets and very picturesque old town, Wrocław is ideally suited to a short and relaxing city break away from the huge crowds of many bigger places. The city is also famous for its local arts and crafts, so a visit to the Market Square and Market Hall are essential.
#7. Olomouc, Czech Republic
The overwhelming majority of visitors to the Czech Republic never step outside of Prague expect, perhaps, for a brief day trip. However, the country has much more to offer than its capital alone, including the city of Olomouc, which is home to the second largest and oldest historic city centre. Home to the spectacular eighteenth century Holy Trinity Column and the magnificent Hradisko monastery, there’s no shortage of things to do and see in this easily walkable city.
#8. Salamanca, Spain
Home to the oldest university in Spain, Salamanca has more than 2,000 years of history, having been first established by a Celtic tribe an unknown time prior to the Roman occupation. Famous for its world-class university and splendid cathedral and the largest central plaza in Spain, the city is an unbeatable destination for those seeking a mix of culture and great nightlife. Although there’s no airport in Salamanca, it’s easily reachable by bus from Madrid or Valladolid.
#9. Freiburg, Germany
With its immaculately clean and well-ordered centre, faithfully restored and colourful mediaeval buildings and abundance of hanging baskets, the old town of Freiburg looks like a fairy tale come to life. The region also sports the most reliable climate in Germany, and it’s situated right on the edge of the Black Forest, making it the perfect base for travellers seeking to enjoy the outdoors. When you’re not taking in the stunning view from the Schlossberg, you can also visit one of the many breweries.
#10. Sibiu, Romania
Romania has long struggled to shake its poor reputation in recent decades, and it has done so with great success. Still, many of its beautiful historic Saxon cities remain largely unexplored, such as Sibiu, which was recently renovated after receiving the European Cultural Capital designation in 2007. The medieval Saxon old town is the main attraction, and it’s full of pleasant bars, cafés and restaurants sitting alongside ancient churches, museums and quaint artisans’ shops.
Those seeking a short city break typically prioritise affordability and convenience, but not one of the above places are particularly expensive or difficult to get to. With affordable flights now serving just about every major city, there’s practically no chance of running out of short-break destinations in Europe.