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Sure, we all know of the main hit list cities of Europe. Paris, London, Berlin… and yes sure, they are all great. But there is way more to explore than just these headliners. So pack your bags and lets get exploring some hidden gems. The following five cities are some of my favorite underrated European destinations.
Berat Albania is a small town, not far from the Albanian capital, characterized by deep cobbled streets and a fortress on top of a tall hill. It’s an atmospheric and picturesque little town, with lots of cobbled streets and alleys to explore. It’s also home to some of the best restaurants we found in Albania. Make sure you have plenty of cash though, most of the places we found in town did not have card facilities. The town itself is a UNESCO world heritage site and is one of the best preserved Ottoman towns in Albania. If you are traveling through Albania, do yourself a favor and spent a night or two in Berat.
Historic monasteries perched on cliffs and overlooking a lake. Winding cobbled streets. Historic churches at every turn. And some seriously amazing food. This is all awaiting you in Ohrid. Ohrid is a popular holiday destination for Macedonians, but we visited in the winter when the town was quiet and almost ours entirely to explore. You can see the main churches and monasteries on this short walking tour.
When I used to live in Belgium I used to hop on a train and travel half way across the country just to spend the day in Antwerp. Ok… half way across the country of Belgium only takes one hour, but still. Antwerp is home to some pretty incredible culture and museums, some of the best shopping in Belgium, and most importantly – my favorite falafel restaurant in Belgium. Not going to lie… I often took the train to Antwerp just to get some lunch. Antwerp is also *the* destination for diamonds… if you are in the market.
I hadn’t done much previous research before setting off to visit the three Baltic countries of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Lithuania was our first stop and we visited two cities; Kaunas and Vilnius. Kaunas wasn’t much to write home about (also it was cold and snowy), but Vilnius really impressed me. Home of Europe’s largest baroque old town, Vilnius is another perfect place to just wander. Filled with museums, galleries, historic buildings, cobbled alleys, and quirky breakaway “republics”, it’s a town that rewards you with new discoveries at each turn.
Don’t be surprised if you have to extend your stay in Budapest. This city has so much to offer, you could easily lose yourself for weeks. Nicknamed the “Paris of the East” due to its scenic setting and stunning architecture, Budapest has so much to discover. From its classical music scene, to city markets. From it’s amazing restaurants, to it’s youthful nightlife (and don’t forget your dancing shoes!). Both above and below ground, Budapest will surprise. It was in Budapest that we found an “all you can drink” underground wine cellar with over 100 open bottles of wine. It is in Budapest where you can go from trendy city shopping to donning overalls and crawling through subterranean caves all in one afternoon. There are not many cities where I long to return to, but Budapest is one of them.