As a continent, Europe hosts some of the world’s most visited cities. According to the latest figures from the World Tourism Organisation, 2014 alone saw over 582 million tourists jetting into European countries. Famous cities like London, Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid and Berlin are immensely popular for many visitors who roll into town to see the sights and get a taste of life in these urban metropolises.
However, unknown to many, there are a number of cities in Europe that offer equal amounts of culture, history, and entertainment, but simply don’t get as many tourists every year as their cousins in the limelight. Some of these are incredible places to visit, where you can enjoy the delights they have to offer without being swept along by the mega-crowds that you will find in busier locations.
If you are planning a mini-break or holiday in the coming months, it is well worth considering some of these cities when it comes to booking your trip. To help you out, we’ve decided to share four of our favourite hidden gems that tend to fly under most people’s radar. Read on to find out more.
Although Brussels and Bruges attract the attention of most visitors to Belgium, Antwerp is a beautiful yet underrated place to visit. At the heart of the city lies its magnificent medieval centre, which has a skyline that is dominated by the spire of the Cathedral of Our Lady. The gothic structure is home to a number of works by famed Belgian painter Peter Paul Rubens, and is well worth an hour or two of your time — check the cathedral’s website for information on guided tours in English.
One of the best times of year to visit the city is during the winter months, when a magical Christmas market takes up residency in the centre. You can sample some traditional Belgian jenever, before taking to the ice on a 1,200m² rink that arrives for the winter season. For a truly unique visit, consider taking a river cruise through Antwerp which will deliver you straight to the heart of the festivities. The River Cruise Line runs a great trip that will allow you to visit Antwerp, as well as the markets at Bruges, Brussels, and Ghent.
Nestled in the south-east corner of the region of Transylvania, Brașov is a city with plenty of charm, as well as a bit of bite. Among the red-topped rooves of the medieval centre are wonderful examples of Gothic architecture, including the spectacular Black Church, named for its close-shave with a fire that gave it its almost-charred appearance. The resident Romanians are incredibly friendly, and you can sample some traditional cuisine in one of the many local restaurants around the city. Particularly notable is La Ceaun, which has excellent reviews and serves a variety of genuine Eastern European dishes.
Fans of Bram Stoker’s masterpiece Dracula will also find a lot to love in Brașov. They will be delighted to learn that the real-life castle that served as the inspiration for the titular vampire’s lair can be found near to the city. Bran Castle is a spectacular fortress-home located on a forest-covered hillside, which more than lives up to the myths and dark magic that seem to haunt its backstory. Visit the castle’s English website to get more details before arranging a trip that you will never forget.
Most visitors’ love affair with this picturesque city begins with a glimpse of the Stari Most (Old Bridge), which spans the beautiful Neretva River. Whether you see this wonderful piece of architecture by day, with the back-drop of the beautiful hillside scenery, or by night when it is spectacularly lit up, it will be an image that will stay with you for a long time.
Though a visit to the city is worth it just to take in the length and breadth of its iconic river crossing, the city has so much more to offer. Each year it hosts an intriguing street art festival, where you can see the work of over 100 international and Bosnian artists who flock to the city to exhibit and create new artworks. The festival takes place during May each year, which makes it a great time to visit.
Mostar is also the perfect base to explore the Kravice waterfalls and surrounding areas. The falls cascade downwards across many foaming ribbons of water, each one a sight to behold. The lake that the waterfalls flow into is also perfect for summer swimming, so be sure to pack a towel. You will have to rent a car to get there, but you can arrange this in advance through Rental Car Group, where you can compare the best deals for you.
The next time you are planning a trip to Europe, take some of our hidden gems into consideration and you’ll enjoy a visit to a fantastic location where not many others will have been.