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Enchanting European Cities: Exploring the Charms of History, Culture, and Beauty

Travelers looking for the next undiscovered, under-the-radar destination in Europe, pay attention. According to Travel + Leisure readers, you’ve been seriously missing out on these 20 amazing cities.

In our annual Europe’s Favorite Places survey, we ask T+L readers to dish about their hometowns — the place they grew up or have lived in and know better than anywhere else on Earth. Unlike T+L’s World’s Best Awards, which encourages readers to weigh in on travel experiences across the globe, the Europe’s Favorite Places survey is a way for locals to share what their hometowns do best.

Readers ranked their hometowns and cities across a range of categories, from the quality of the local cuisine to the beauty of the architecture. We also ask if they think their city is wildly overrated or an overlooked gem.

Locals from these European destinations, which span from the Mediterranean to the Baltic Sea (but are mostly centered around the continent’s lesser-known regions), largely feel like they’ve been overshadowed by popular tourist destinations or dismissed as “off the beaten path.”

Some cities have had a difficult time shedding negative stereotypes or historical perceptions. (One resident of Warsaw wondered in our survey: “When will people stop associating our city only with World War II? We have so much more to offer.”)

Ljubljana and Porto are the only cities on this year’s list of underrated European hometowns that also appeared on last year’s list. Meaning adventurous travelers have a lot of exploring to do in the coming year.

01 of 20

Tallinn, Estonia Tallinn, Estonia SNEHIT/GETTY IMAGES With its picturesque Old Town, medieval architecture, and vibrant cultural scene, Tallinn offers a unique charm that often goes unnoticed. Visitors can explore centuries-old churches, enjoy local delicacies in cozy cafes, and immerse themselves in the city’s rich history.

02 of 20

Vilnius, Lithuania Vilnius, Lithuania TOMAS SEREDA/GETTY IMAGES Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, is a hidden gem in Eastern Europe. The city boasts a well-preserved historic center, known as the Old Town, with its narrow cobblestone streets, charming squares, and Gothic architecture. With a burgeoning arts scene and a vibrant nightlife, Vilnius is a must-visit destination for those seeking an authentic European experience.

03 of 20

Zagreb, Croatia Zagreb, Croatia MARIUSLAM/GETTY IMAGES Often overshadowed by Croatia’s coastal cities, Zagreb is a cultural and culinary hub that deserves more recognition. With its impressive museums, vibrant festivals, and thriving café culture, Zagreb offers a delightful blend of history and modernity. Don’t miss exploring the charming neighborhoods and enjoying the local gastronomy.

04 of 20

Bruges, Belgium Bruges, Belgium EFESSE/GETTY IMAGES Known as the “Venice of the North,” Bruges enchants visitors with its picturesque canals, medieval architecture, and cobblestone streets. This well-preserved city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and offers a glimpse into Europe’s rich history. Take a boat ride along the canals, indulge in Belgian chocolates, and explore the city’s numerous art galleries and museums.

05 of 20

Riga, Latvia Riga, Latvia BORIS STRZALSKI/GETTY IMAGES Riga, the capital of Latvia, is a vibrant city that seamlessly blends medieval charm with a modern atmosphere. Its historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is renowned for its stunning Art Nouveau architecture. Riga also boasts a thriving arts scene, lively nightlife, and a burgeoning food culture. Don’t miss the city’s central market, housed in massive Zeppelin hangars, offering a unique shopping experience.

These are just a few of the incredible, yet often overlooked, cities in Europe that offer a wealth of history, culture, and natural beauty. So, fellow travelers, venture off the beaten path and discover these hidden treasures that await you. It’s time to uncover the secrets of Europe’s underrated gems and create memories that will last a lifetime.

06 of 20

Valencia, Spain Valencia, Spain SEAN HOBSON/GETTY IMAGES Valencia, located on Spain’s eastern coast, is a vibrant city known for its beautiful beaches, stunning architecture, and rich cultural heritage. The city seamlessly blends tradition with modernity, offering visitors a diverse range of experiences. Explore the futuristic City of Arts and Sciences, indulge in delicious paella, and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of the old town.

07 of 20

Krakow, Poland Krakow, Poland PIOTR ZAJDA/GETTY IMAGES Krakow, with its well-preserved medieval architecture and rich history, is a true hidden gem in Europe. The city’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a treasure trove of architectural wonders, including the iconic Wawel Castle and the stunning St. Mary’s Basilica. Explore the Jewish Quarter, visit the historic salt mine in Wieliczka, and discover Krakow’s vibrant cultural scene.

08 of 20

Lyon, France Lyon, France LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES Lyon, often overshadowed by Paris, is a city that captivates visitors with its culinary delights, historical landmarks, and vibrant atmosphere. Known as the gastronomic capital of France, Lyon boasts an array of Michelin-starred restaurants and traditional bouchons, where you can savor the finest French cuisine. Explore the old town’s traboules, visit the impressive Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, and take a stroll along the banks of the Rhône and Saône rivers.

09 of 20

Seville, Spain Seville, Spain YULIA-IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES Seville, the capital of Andalusia, is a city that exudes charm, history, and passion. With its iconic landmarks, such as the magnificent Alcázar and the stunning Cathedral, Seville offers a glimpse into Spain’s rich Moorish and Christian heritage. Get lost in the winding streets of the Santa Cruz neighborhood, witness the vibrant flamenco performances, and indulge in delicious tapas.

10 of 20

Bath, England Bath, England MATTHEW MICAH WRIGHT/GETTY IMAGES Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a city renowned for its Roman-built baths, Georgian architecture, and natural hot springs. Immerse yourself in history as you explore the Roman Baths, admire the grandeur of the Royal Crescent, and visit the magnificent Bath Abbey. With its charming streets, elegant tea rooms, and picturesque countryside, Bath is a quintessential English destination.

11 of 20

Porto, Portugal Porto, Portugal ALXCRS/GETTY IMAGES Porto, often overshadowed by Lisbon, is a city that captivates visitors with its colorful streets, historic buildings, and world-famous port wine. Wander through the narrow alleys of the Ribeira district, cross the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge, and visit the stunning Livraria Lello bookstore. With its laid-back atmosphere and breathtaking views of the Douro River, Porto is a true gem waiting to be discovered.

12 of 20

Edinburgh, Scotland Edinburgh, Scotland VIEW STOCK/GETTY IMAGES Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is a city that seamlessly blends history, culture, and natural beauty. Explore the cobbled streets of the Royal Mile, visit the imposing Edinburgh Castle, and hike up Arthur’s Seat for panoramic views of the city. Don’t miss the world-famous Edinburgh Festival, a celebration of arts and culture that takes place every August.

13 of 20

Bruges, Belgium Bruges, Belgium TRAVEL MANIA/SHUTTERSTOCK Bruges, often referred to as the “Venice of the North,” is a charming medieval city that enchants visitors with its picturesque canals, cobblestone streets, and historic architecture. Take a leisurely boat ride along the canals, admire the intricate lacework, and indulge in delicious Belgian chocolates. Bruges’ fairy-tale charm is sure to leave a lasting impression.

14 of 20

Bergen, Norway Bergen, Norway MILOSK50/GETTY IMAGES Bergen, surrounded by majestic mountains and fjords, is a city that offers breathtaking natural beauty and a vibrant cultural scene. Explore the UNESCO-listed Bryggen Wharf, ride the funicular to the top of Mount Fløyen for panoramic views, and visit the vibrant Fish Market. With its unique blend of outdoor adventures and cultural experiences, Bergen is a true gem in the Norwegian landscape.

15 of 20

Salzburg, Austria Salzburg, Austria ANDIA/GETTY IMAGES Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart and the setting for “The Sound of Music,” is a city that oozes charm and musical heritage. Explore the baroque beauty of the Old Town, visit Mozart’s birthplace, and take a stroll through the enchanting Mirabell Gardens. With its stunning alpine backdrop and cultural festivals, Salzburg is a destination that will captivate both music lovers and history enthusiasts.

16 of 20

Tallinn, Estonia Tallinn, Estonia DMITRY-B/GETTY IMAGES Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, is a city that combines medieval charm with a modern, tech-savvy atmosphere. Step back in time as you wander through the cobbled streets of the UNESCO-listed Old Town, visit the imposing Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, and admire the panoramic views from Toompea Hill. With its thriving start-up scene and vibrant cultural events, Tallinn is a city on the cutting edge.

17 of 20

Dubrovnik, Croatia Dubrovnik, Croatia ESMAGDAS/GETTY IMAGES Dubrovnik, often called the “Pearl of the Adriatic,” is a city that enchants visitors with its medieval walls, red-roofed buildings, and stunning coastal views. Walk along the ancient city walls, explore the charming Old Town, and take a cable car ride to Mount Srđ for panoramic vistas. Dubrovnik’s beauty has made it a popular filming location for the hit TV series “Game of Thrones.”

18 of 20

Reykjavik, Iceland Reykjavik, Iceland ALLANBELLUCCI/GETTY IMAGES Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, is a city that boasts natural wonders, a vibrant arts scene, and a unique Nordic charm. Visit the striking Hallgrimskirkja church, relax in the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon, and explore the colorful houses of the Old Town. With its proximity to stunning landscapes and the chance to witness the mesmerizing Northern Lights, Reykjavik offers a truly unforgettable experience.

19 of 20

Granada, Spain Granada, Spain ISTOCKPHOTO/GETTY IMAGES Granada, nestled at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, is a city that exudes history and Moorish influence. The crown jewel of Granada is the Alhambra, a magnificent palace complex that showcases intricate Islamic architecture and stunning gardens. Stroll through the narrow streets of the Albaicín neighborhood, experience the vibrant flamenco scene, and savor delicious tapas in this captivating Andalusian city.

20 of 20

Florence, Italy Florence, Italy LIVINGHISTORY/SHUTTERSTOCK Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, is a city that epitomizes art, culture, and architectural marvels. Marvel at the breathtaking beauty of the Duomo, admire iconic artworks at the Uffizi Gallery, and stroll across the picturesque Ponte Vecchio. Florence’s charm lies in its timeless elegance and its ability to transport visitors to a bygone era of artistic brilliance.

From the sun-soaked beaches of Valencia to the historic charm of Krakow, from the culinary delights of Lyon to the architectural wonders of Florence, Europe offers an abundance of captivating cities to explore. Whether you’re seeking history, culture, natural beauty, or gastronomic experiences, these cities will leave you with unforgettable memories and a deep appreciation for the rich heritage of the continent. So pack your bags, embark on a European adventure, and let these cities enchant you with their unique charm and allure

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