9 Overlooked European Cities You Have to Visit Before You Die

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with traveling to much-visited and adored cities like Barcelona, Venice, or Florence. After all, we’d be remiss in suggesting that any city on the planet could replace the romance of Paris or the storied history of Athens. But for the traveler who’s simply on the market for something a little more under the radar, there are plenty of lesser-known cities in Europe to explore.

Half the fun of travel is discovery anyway, don’t you think? If you want to escape the tourist crowds, we suggest going off the beaten track a little and exploring some lesser-known locales—or you could choose some of the prettiest. We’ve been doing some matchmaking, so book a flight to one of these nine destinations that will satisfy your taste for beauty, adventure, culture, and then some.

Aside from the obvious choices, these are also some of the best cities to visit in Europe.

Skip the Amalfi Coast and Visit the Croatian Coast

Best Cities to Visit in Europe
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Dubrovnik, Hvar, and Split along the Croatian coast sport some of the most stunning seaside expanses in the world (um, it’s where Game of Thrones is filmed!). In addition to the natural beauty, these cities also boast great history in the form of Roman ruins, tasty local restaurants, vineyards, access to nearby islands, and a taste of true, blissful escape.

Rick Steves Croatia and Slovenia
Rick Steves Rick Steves' Croatia & Slovenia $30

Skip London and Visit Edinburgh

Best Cities to Visit in Europe: Edinburgh
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Keep it in the Great Britain family and head to Edinburgh, Scotland, for a metropolitan mix of history, culture, food, and gorgeous architecture to boot. Main sights include Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat, but there’s plenty more culture to explore too. In August, the city hosts the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world.

Lonely Planet Pocket Edinburgh
Lonely Planet Pocket Edinburgh $10

Skip Dublin and Visit County Clare

Best Cities to Visit in Europe: County Clare
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Dublin has some truly incredible sights, including a magnificent 13th-century castle and other medieval wonders. But if it’s history and natural wonders you’re after—rather than nightlife—scenic County Clare is just as noteworthy. Highlights include the breathtaking and ragged Cliffs of Moher, the 15th-century Bunratty Castle, and the mystical rock formations of The Burren.

Lonely Planet Ireland
Lonely Planet Ireland Travel Guide $8

Skip Venice and Visit Bassano del Grappa

Best Cities to Visit in Europe: Bassano del Grappa
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Situated on the water beneath a backdrop of the Venetian Prealps is Bassano del Grappa, a little-known city of bridges and canals in Northern Italy, a one-hour journey from crowded Venice. Arcaded cobblestone streets, 15th-century buildings, charming storefronts, and Ponte Degli Alpini, a brick-hued wooden bridge, are some of the city’s treasures.

DK Publishing Backroads Northern and Central Italy
DK Publishing Back Roads Northern & Central Italy $43

Skip Madrid and Visit Lisbon

Best Cities to Visit in Europe: Lisbon
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This beautiful port city is all cobblestones and charm—plus one of the most nocturnal cultures of any city in its Barrio Alto neighborhood. The city’s impressive art access, experimental culinary scene, and stylish streets call to mind the big-city appeal of Madrid.

Rick Steves Snapshot Lisbon
Rick Steves Rick Steves Snapshot Lisbon $10 $5

Skip Florence and Visit Siena

Best Cities to Visit in Europe: Siena
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Want a taste of Italy’s central Tuscany without the crowds of tourists? Siena is one of Italy’s loveliest medieval cities, with its earth-hued, fan-shaped central piazza and elegant tower overlooking the city and surrounding green hills. Explore the petite city and its contrades (neighborhoods) during the summer, and you may just catch the Palio di Siena horse races, worth booking a trip for all on their own.

Lonely Planet Florence and Tuscany
Lonely Planet Florence & Tuscany $25 $20

Skip Athens and Visit Rhodes

Best Cities to Visit in Europe: Rhodes
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This scenic Greek island, away from the crowds of Athens, boasts beautiful beaches plus a few sights that will give you your fill of history, including the Temple of Apollo, the Acropolis of Lindos, the Governor’s Palace, as well as a bustling Old Town with medieval castles, Roman ruins, and Byzantine mosques.

Insight Guides Greek Islands
Insight Guides Greek Islands Insight Guides $11

Skip Stockholm and Visit Tallinn

Best Cities to Visit in Europe: Tallinn
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Estonia’s capital city boasts a fascinating melding of Russian and Scandinavian influences. The supremely walkable Tallinn is also home to one of the best-preserved medieval sectors of the Baltic region, thanks to its inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Lonely Planet Scandinavia
Lonely Planet Scandinavia $28

Skip Barcelona and Visit Valencia

Best Cities to Visit in Europe: Valencia
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The coastal city of Valencia, just a short train trip south from Barcelona, has it all: beaches, history, culture, and a bustling culinary scene. Valencia has a lovely daytime culture with its bike-friendly streets, plus a happening nightlife with rooftop discos and the garden atop the Arts and Sciences Museum.

Lonely Planet Valencia Travel Guide
Lonely Planet Pocket Valencia $13

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