6 (more) overlooked and underrated cities in Europe

The middle of March saw a bit of a milestone for CBT – 17 March meant two whole years of blogging.

This month has been a bit of a busy one – going to Morocco, attending Traverse and launching a corporate blog for work – so the anniversary celebrations were kept to a minimum. (In fact, they were kept to a solitary Facebook post and a warm feeling of satisfaction.)

But one thing I wanted to do was revisit a very early post that became my first real success – in fact up until last month, it was still my most-read post on the blog, even after two years:  6 overlooked and underrated cities in Europe

Since then, I’d like to think Continental Breakfast Travel has become quite well-known for covering Europe’s best hidden gems, so I thought I’d recap on a few and bring you an updated list.

So here we have: 6 (more) overlooked and underrated cities in Europe.
Imaginative, right?

Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina

After bearing the brutal brunt of the Yugoslav wars in the 90s, Bosnia is now slowly emerging onto the tourist radar, helped along by the popularity of Dubrovnik, found just to the south. But while photogenic Mostar sees bus-loads of visitors pile in by the day, far fewer make it up to Sarajevo, the country’s stand-out gem.

It’s a cliché, but Sarajevo truly is where east meets west; its history is a melting pot of Ottoman, Serb and Austro-Hungarian influences, which can clearly be seen in the city’s beautiful architecture. Of course, the impact of the 1,425-day Siege of Sarajevo is hard to ignore – but this makes the city all the more fascinating. Definitely worth visiting.

Read more about my thoughts on Sarajevo here.

Kolner Dom & Hohenzollern Bridge, Cologne

Cologne (Köln), Germany

As a current resident of Düsseldorf, I probably shouldn’t be writing this (the two cities are major rivals), but Cologne is pretty damn cool and definitely somewhere British travellers should have in their sights. I first visited on a school trip in 2003, but am enjoying rediscovering the city (albeit slowly) from my base in Düsseldorf.

The major landmarks of the city are obviously Cologne Cathedral and the love-lock-adorned Hohenzollern Bridge, but away from that, the city is known in Germany as being very cool. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of Manchester: amazing night life, active gay scene and diverse neighbourhoods, including hipster Ehrenfeld and fashionable Belgian Quarter (Belgisches Viertel).

For more, check out the Hipster Guide to Cologne from Travels of Adam.

Mamayev Kurgan, Volgograd

Volgograd, Russia

OK, so Volgograd might not be overlooked so much as completely unknown, but it doesn’t make this Southern Russian city any less worth seeing. The city itself has a place in history, but the fact it isn’t found on the Trans-Siberian or close to Moscow or St. Petersburg makes it one of Russia’s less-visited cities.

Volgograd is the site of the infamous Battle of Stalingrad in WWII, widely regarded as the bloodiest battle in human history. Most of the city’s key sights are connected with the war, such as Mamayev Kurgan Memorial Complex. But today the city is vibrant, energetic and – surprisingly for a provincial Russian city – cosmopolitan. Factor in the hot summers and the nearby town of Elista, and you have a great destination.

Click here for more photos of Volgograd and other Soviet war memorials.

Diocletian's Palace, Split

Split, Croatia

It’s hard to believe that there is anywhere left to discover in Croatia, thanks to its huge surge in popularity over the last few years, but Split is yet another underrated Balkan city living in the shadow of tourist-magnet Dubrovnik.

Split was a city I fell in love with. Its main attraction is Diocletian’s Palace, a Roman ruin which is still the thriving heart of the city today. Just past the palace, you’ll find the bustling promenade which looks out to the islands of the Adriatic. There are plenty of beaches close by and countless boat trip opportunities, but the real draw for me was that Split felt like a real city. Away from the crushing crowds of tourist-trap Dubrovnik, you can experience actual Dalmatian life.

Quai Belu, Amiens

Amiens, France

Of the cities on this list, Amiens is definitely the place I’ve spent the least amount of time in. In fact, even visiting at all was a bit of a happy accident during a road trip from London to Düsseldorf. We booked a camp site close by so had a short, sunny evening to explore.

On arriving in Amiens, I knew nothing about it. And if I’m being honest, I don’t know much more now. What I do know is that the city is home to an incredible Cathedral and a very relaxed, open café-culture, particularly in the Saint-Leu area, which has a lot of bars and restaurants situated around the Somme and the street Quai Belu. I would definitely love to go back to this charming town.

To read more about our road trip, click here.

Liverpool - a hidden gem

Liverpool, UK

While I could have easily included my beloved Manchester in this list of less-visited hidden gems (and almost did), it seems like Liverpool is far less known in the UK as a travel destination – particularly by Brits themselves.

The truth is, Liverpool is a great city: the city’s nightlife is generally regarded as among the best in the country, the shopping is fantastic and the newly-revamped Albert Docks is emerging as a strong cultural centre – the Museum of Liverpool and the incredible International Slavery Museum are not to be missed. Oh, and I think the city might be the home town of The Beatles, but I’m not quite sure…

Read more about Liverpool here.
For more underrated cities in England, click here.

Which off the beaten track places would you add?
Comment below!

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19 responses to “6 (more) overlooked and underrated cities in Europe

  1. Pingback: 6 overlooked and underrated cities in Europe | Continental Breakfast Travel·

  2. Pingback: England’s most underrated cities | Continental Breakfast Travel·

  3. Totally with you on Sarajevo and on Coln. Both our beautiful cities. I got engaged in Sarajevo! If you haven’t visited it, I also suggest Belgrade. Fascinating city!

    • I have been to Belgrade, but the trip was a bit too brief. I’d love to go back – I felt like we didn’t really see the ‘right’ things to be honest. Glad you like Sarajevo, though – beautiful place!

  4. Out of all the cities you’ve mentioned, Split is the one I want to see the most, especially since I’m dying to visit Croatia. Btw, it sounds like you really hated Dubrovnik :-/

    • Ed just said the same… I didn’t hate Dubrovnik – I just wouldn’t be in a rush to go back. I would say it met my expectations fully, but it didn’t really wow me.

      Split on the other hand, is fantastic. I would happily go back. Bizarrely, I kept thinking what a great city it would be for Erasmus…

  5. So I’m guessing you didn’t Dubrovnik? Ah, we must be polar opposites as I wasn’t enamoured with Split but fell in love beautifully with Dubrovnik.

    Cheers for the heads up for Liverpool, I’ll be heading to the city next month 🙂

    Great post dude. Hope you remembered to link this to your first post.

    • It looks like I didn’t realise how much Dubrovnik-bashing there was in this post… But I definitely did prefer Split – Dubrovnik was too hectic and expensive for my liking.

      Liverpool is a fantastic place, make sure to check out some museums. The Shipping Forecast is also a great bar.

  6. Happy blog birthday! Some new ones for me to check out here – a night in Liverpool is as close as I’ve got so far. The Balkans are on the radar to explore more so Split and Sarajevo are hopefully on the cards.

    • Thank you – another year older, eh? Haha. Your Balkan plans sound exciting, I’d love to see what you make of Sarajevo, I think you’d love it.

  7. I found Split to be full of tourists (less than Dubrovnik though :-)) so I wouldn’t have put it on the list of underrated cities. It’s full of students and young people that want to party and is therefore really noisy 🙂 If I have to recommend another “big” city to discover the “dalmatian life”, I would say Sibenik 🙂 It’s a lot quieter.

    Nice post and nice pictures 🙂

    • Glad you liked the pictures! I think Split does do well for tourists, yeah, but definitely nowhere near as many as Dubrovnik. Sibenik I’ll have to put on the list for next time 🙂 easy to get to from Split?

  8. Thank you for this list of ‘overlooked’ cities in Europe. I haven’t seen any of them and I’m sure they have so much to offer.

  9. Amiens looks perfectly charming – when I go back to France I want to just spend a week hanging out/eating my way through cute places like that. And man, do I miss missing out on Sarajevo while in Croatia… (still no regrets over picking Budapest instead tho).

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