Europeans don’t enjoy much elbowroom. The continent is second only to India and on par with China and Nigeria when ranked by population density. Which means there are a lot of cities here.
But unlike the largely assimilated cities of India, China and Nigeria, European ones drastically differ from each other as you travel through the continents 50 countries and half as many languages. While London, Paris, Rome and other famous city magnets are rightfully deserving of your sightseeing time, why not consider one of these less frequented stars instead?
The best Iberian coastal town you’ve never heard of. Located four and half hours south of Lisbon by train, “La-goosh” might eventually become the next best beach town. Although known for its beautiful coastline, walled old town, 14th century fortresses, and dramatic cliffs, it also plays host to some of the best nightlife in the Algarve region. In between all that, you can take a boat tour to natural caves or just consider your good fortune upon finding yourself in such a delightful corner of the world.
Make no mistake, for many people Istanbul is old hat. But far too many Westerners are clueless about this ancient city. What makes this place so special, however, is the confluence of Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman cultures that once ruled the place. That and the city effectively serves as a bridge between Europe, Asia and the Middle East. With over 15 million people, it’s also one of the largest cities in Europe. Highlights include breathtaking architecture, bustling bazaars, and Turkish baths.
Southeastern Europe doesn’t get near as much love as it should. Neither does Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. Like Istanbul, the former’s architecture is a fissure of Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, Yugoslav, and Serbian influences. What that means to you, dear reader, is that the city’s many theaters, museums, monuments, beaches and the Danube/Sava river barges will keep your eyes and heart interested for a very long time. Truly one of the continents most compelling destinations.
As the former capital of Poland, Krakow remains a leading hub for Polish academic, cultural and economic life. Situated at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains in the southern part of the country, the city is known for its well-preserved medieval core and Jewish quarter. Downtown districts are brimming with cafés, superior pubs to Warsaw and a 10-acre market square that is a joy for the senses. As the former central sight of the Nazi General Government, there’s also a solemnity here. But thankfully that’s not represented in the city’s high visual appeal.
Get your camera ready. Due to its sweeping views and similar architecture, “Boo-dah-pesht” is lovingly nicknamed “Paris of the East.” With a youthful atmosphere and renowned classical music scene, the capital is a delightful mix of new and old outlooks on life. Hungarians are proud of this city and the different language it speaks and chances are you will too upon visiting it.
Photo: Corinne Cavallo, CC-BY