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Most Overlooked European Cities

When it concerns European tourism, prominent destinations such as Rome and Italy tend to be at the top of most people's lists. While we wouldn't advise visitors to avoid some of the world's most notable cultural and gastronomic hotspots, Europe is full of unexpected locations which will far outperform your expectations—not simply because you may have never considered them before. Do you need any examples? We enlisted the help of our network of travel experts and European-based experts to compile this list of the most underappreciated European cities, which ranges from little villages in Sweden to lesser-known cities in the Baltic nations. These cities may occupy fewer pages in your handbooks than other destinations, but they offer the same natural beauty and must-see features as their more famous rivals. Continue reading for a list of ten underestimated European cities chosen by those who understand the region well.

Trondheim, Norway

Picture Source- Gail Valleau

Trondheim was one of Europe's most prominent pilgrimage locations between 1050 and 1536. The city is home to one of Norway's greatest hotels, the Britannia Hotel, as well as numerous Michelin-starred restaurants. The majestic Nidaros Cathedral, the historic Archbishop's Palace, the Sverresborg Trondelag Folk Museum, as well as other notable museums can all be found here. Canoe trips on the stream and in the Trondheimsfjord are also available, as are sea kayaking, bicycle expeditions, and excursions to major Viking sites such as Stiklestad. The quantity of tourists does not accurately represent Trondheim's qualities and significance in Europe.

Tirana, Albania

Picture Source- Destination Albania

A vacation to Tirana provides both a disturbing (but compelling) peek into Albania's recent past and an energising taste of a dynamic, fast expanding metropolis. The city blends remarkable architectural relics of the country's communist chapter with an uniquely young spirit, probably best exemplified by the colossal 1988 Tirana Pyramid's transformation into a youth-focused cultural centre. The city centre is accessible and full of places to simply 'be' (take a seat on the sofa-esque benches of Skanderbeg Square, iced coffee in hand), and nature is never far away, thanks to the massive Grand Park and beautiful Mount Dajti, which surround the city. For spectacular views and a feeling of the terrain around Tirana, take the cable car up Mount Dajti before embarking on a gastronomic tour through Albania at restaurant Mullixhiu, which seems like a rural refuge on the outskirts of the Grand Park. Make a beeline towards the Blloku area to enjoy the finest of Tirana's nightlife.

Zamora, Spain

Picture Source- Pedro Vazque

The new AVE (high-speed rail) from Madrid, which takes only 1 hour, is set to promote tourism in Zamora and its 60,000 people. There are plenty of reasons to visit: this is the city with the most Romanesque churches in Europe (24 in all), all of which were erected during the 12th and 13th centuries. Furthermore, Zamora is one of Spain's most prominent epicentres of modernist art buildings, maybe third only to Barcelona and Melilla. Zamora is famed for its Holy Week, which is one of the most magnificent, dramatic, and disturbing in Spain. (You may learn more about it here.) But, no matter when you go, don't miss out on the city's traditional cuisine, like as the lesser-known 'arroz a la zamorana,' which is rice cooked with beef and ham and finished in the oven. And here's a secret: Zamora has one of Spain's greatest orchards, and its tomatoes are out of this world; try superb wines from the famed Toro vineyards, where LVMH owns Numanthia.

Trogir, Croatia

Picture Source- City Of Trogir

Trogir's Old Town, located on a small island, is full of character. Its maze of small, old lanes is dotted with mediaeval town homes. On a warm day, the vibrant coastal promenade, packed with cafés and restaurants, is bustling with activity. The town also has numerous attractive and well-preserved structures from its golden period, which lasted from the 13th through the 15th century. Its extensive collection of Romanesque and Renaissance structures won it UNESCO World Heritage designation in 1997. Trogir packs a lot within a little package: browse the market, stroll along the Riva, or tour a Venetian fortification. It is just around 30 minutes from Split and is a great option for those who want to see and enjoy Split but do not want to stay in a huge metropolis. The mediaeval beach resort of Sibenik, the Krka National Park, and the ancient ruins of Solin are also nearby.

Narbonne, France

Picture Source- Dariusz

Although Narbonne is located in Southwest France, most visitors to the region flock to the area around Toulouse or to the more well-known cities east of the old Roman seaport—Montpellier, Arles, or, farther afield, Marseille and the greater Provence-Côte d'Azur région. But [at Narbonne], there is breathtaking scenery, easy access to the ocean, and lots to see and eat. In terms of hotel and wine, the destination here is Château l'Hospitalet Wine Resort, Beach, and Spa, which is owned by Gerard Bertrand, one of France's pioneers of biodynamic winemaking with 16 biodynamic farms (Bertrand is one of the biggest exporters of French wine in the U.S.). The hotel has recently added additional rooms, restaurants, a spa, and a beach club, and guests may select for on-site wine tastings. Visitors may also visit the Narbonne Regional Natural Park to watch the flamingos, go horseback riding through the park, see the mediaeval old city centre, and visit Narbo Via, a new museum created by Foster + Partners that focuses on the former maritime capital's Roman past.

Petworth, England

Picture Source- Asher

Petworth was traditionally recognised as a collection of antique businesses, despite being a superbly preserved English market town set in the middle of the South Downs National Park. This very English town and its surrounding surroundings are now a must-visit destination, with an abundance of unique shops, cafés, and delis that line its charming cobblestone streets and secret alleys. Cowdray Park, one of the area's biggest estates, is known across the world as the "Home of British Polo," the sport of Kings. (NoteWorthy can set up a meeting with a top England player and a private session for two.) The magnificent 17th-century Petworth House, Twenty (a one-stop destination for modern fashion lovers), and The Hungry Guest cafe (whose chocolate brownies are to die for!) are all located in town. Check out the lavender fields nestled away in a fold of the South Downs, which are available to visitors every July.

Thessaloniki, Greece

Picture Source- Herold Gyorgy

Thessaloniki may still be behind Athens in terms of tourism, but Greece's second city is definitely worth a visit. Come for the world-class culinary scene—UNESCO declared Thessaloniki Greece's first 'City of Gastronomy' in November 2021—and stay for the joyful, creative spirit (owing in part to the large student population). While its historical offerings are not as magnificent as the Acropolis, they are no less rich: consider a well-preserved Roman forum, Rotunda frescoes, and Ottoman hammams. Many people are ignorant of the city's unique multicultural background, something I was unaware of until I moved there. For example, in the early twentieth century, Thessaloniki had the biggest Jewish population in Europe, and the legacy of this Jewish community (especially in architecture) can be found everywhere if you know where to look. All of this while retaining a fairly laid-back attitude—Athens people will frequently jokingly refer to Thessaloniki as halara, signifying the city's chilled-out environment and slower pace of life.

Ohrid, North Macedonia

Picture Source- Omnivagent

We all know the Balkans have some beautiful coastline areas, but don't overlook the region's lakes! Lake Ohrid is one of Europe's oldest and deepest lakes, straddling North Macedonia and Albania. Ohrid, on the North Macedonian coast, is the ideal location for a lakeside holiday that mixes sweetwater swimming and sunbathing with awe-inspiring environment (the lake is frequently referred to as the "European Galapagos" due to its abundant biodiversity) and Byzantine religious history and architecture. Wander the beachfront and lovely cobblestone alleyways of the UNESCO-protected town after a leisurely morning by the ocean at Potpesh or Kaneo beach. Head up to the cliffside Church of St. John at Kaneo or see the spectacular views from Tsar Samuel's Fortress before exploring the Ancient Macedonian Theatre of Ohrid for a history fix. Viva Ksantika is noted for its hearty local food, while Kaj Kanevche is a favourite among seaside eateries. If you have time, take a boat across the lake to the lovely Monastery of Saint Naum.

Cork, Ireland

Picture Source- Griaraceli

Cork is a vibrant city with a warm, local atmosphere that is sometimes missed by tourists. It is regarded as Ireland's gastronomic capital, with a thriving restaurant scene (I highly recommend Greenes Restaurant), distinctive pubs and distilleries, and the English market—one of the greatest food markets in Europe. Cork is simple to get around on foot, and there are several galleries, museums, churches, and historical sites to see. It is also an excellent starting place for day journeys to the picturesque coastal town of Kinsale, Blarney Castle and Gardens, the Old Head golf course, and Cobh, the Titanic's final port of call and a departure point for many immigrants during the Great Famine. If possible, try to visit during the Midsummer Festival in June.

Gdańsk, Poland

Picture Source- Gunaydin Huzun

Gdask, which is frequently visited as part of a cruise ship shore trip, features many days' worth of fantastic mediaeval sites (and great cuisine!). The Museum of the Second World War is one of the most extensive WWII museums we've ever seen. A visit to the Westerplatte memorial site will also allow you to observe where WWII began. Visit Malbork, one of Europe's best preserved castles, and the world's biggest castle (by land area). Meanwhile, visit the Solidarity Centre to learn about contemporary history. Then spend the day on a boat on the Baltic Sea, sampling innovative food in the city centre and superb rustic cuisine in the countryside.

Nevertheless Europe is indeed full of fascinating, underappreciated destinations. Whether you wish to visit ancient, underappreciated cities or untamed mountain ranges where few visitors go, these neglected European sites are sure to pique your interest.

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