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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Which off the beaten track places would you add?