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Top 10 Underrated Cities in Europe You Need to Visit

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Roffey
Thanks to Getty Images for the pictures and videos! London, Paris, and Barcelona draw the crowds, while these gems beckon just off the beaten path. Welcome to MojoTravels, and today we're counting down our picks for the top 10 underrated cities in Europe you need to visit. For this list, we're looking at cities infused with great architecture, culture, and history, that are often overlooked in favour of their better-known brethren.
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Top 10 Underrated Cities in Europe You Need to Visit



London, Paris, and Barcelona draw the crowds, while these gems beckon just off the beaten path. Welcome to MojoTravels, and today we're counting down our picks for the top 10 underrated cities in Europe you need to visit. For this list, we're looking at cities infused with great architecture, culture, and history, that are often overlooked in favour of their better-known brethren.









#10: Ghent, Belgium

It’s been called “Belgium’s best kept secret”. While visitors flock to Brussels and Bruges, Ghent is often overlooked. But the university town’s winding cobblestone lanes, imposing medieval architecture, and vibrant nightlife make it a worthy rival. With its museums and markets, lively pubs and restaurants, and laid-back, amiable locals, the city manages to feel both cosy and cosmopolitan at the same time. The historic centre is easily walkable, and canal cruises offer picturesque views of Ghent’s mercantile mansions and iconic Gravensteen Castle - all for now without the crowds that clog Bruges. Come during Gentse Festeen in July, when music, dance and theatre spill through the city streets.




#9: Bucharest, Romania

Romania’s capital is a captivating blend of the old and new, eighteenth century architecture existing side by side with steel and glass. In the interwar years, a reputation for elegance and sophistication earned Bucharest the nickname “the Little Paris” - and the city even has its very own Arcul de Triumf. While dictator Nicolae Ceausescu demolished many of Bucharest’s historic buildings before his overthrow in 1989, the city retains its air of cultivation and charm, notwithstanding Ceausescu’s monolithic Palace of Parliament. With its trendy cafes, world-class museums, and historic boulevards, Bucharest is one of the seldom sung jewels of Eastern Europe.





#8: Lyon, France

With most visitors making a beeline for Paris or the French Riviera, the cities and sights in between are relatively neglected. Lyon shows why that shouldn’t be so. France’s third-largest city, Lyon, is nonetheless the country’s culinary capital, renowned for its glorious light festival in December and also the timeless appeal of its Old Town, where medieval passageways known as traboules connect narrow cobblestone streets and quaint bouchons serve traditional Lyonnaise cuisine. For the best view of the city, take a funicular to the gleaming, Byzantine-inspired basilica on Fourviere Hill, erected on the site of Roman ruins, from where you can also make out snow-capped Mont Blanc.



#7: Cork, Ireland

Sure, Dublin may have Temple Bar and Trinity College . . . But, despite a gritty surface, Cork has its own charms to make it a must-see. Affectionately known by locals as “the real capital”, the southern city is a cosmopolitan, thriving metropolis bursting at the seams with culture, a boisterous nightlife, and the bustle of a much larger city. Small enough to see on foot, the city centre is nonetheless chock full of cafes, drinking dens, museums, galleries, and affordable restaurants. Just a three hour drive from Dublin, brash, confident, and cultured Cork is well worth the visit.



#6: Innsbruck, Austria

Nestled in a crook of the Lee River, amid towering, snow-capped spires, Innsbruck offers urban convenience in a setting of sublime natural beauty. Sometimes called “the capital of the Alps”, the city is a prime destination for those seeking outdoor adventure, be it skiing, ski jumping, and snowboarding in winter, or hiking, cycling, and rock climbing in the summer. But the city is also enough of a draw on its own, with gorgeous Gothic facades and Baroque cathedrals, and an effervescent nightlife thanks to the city’s student population.



#5: Porto, Portugal

In the minds of many visitors, Porto plays second fiddle to Portugal’s largest city and capital, Lisbon. But don’t underestimate this energetic, edgy, and atmospheric underdog. Porto has a blossoming cultural scene, a historic centre with World Heritage status, and is of course the home of Port wine - produced in wineries around the city, and matured in cellars across the River Douro. With so much to offer, it’s really no surprise that in 2017, Porto was elected “European Best Destination” for the third time. Just get there before everyone else does. And consider winding down afterward in Tavira - another underrated, colourful coastal town, down on Portugal’s southern tip, but well worth the trip.





#4: Helsinki, Finland

Known as the “Daughter of the Baltic”, the Finnish capital is bound to the seasons like few others. Winters are long and dark, but provide the opportunity for ice fishing, ice skiing, and if you’re very brave, ice hole swimming in the frozen Gulf of Finland. Summer brings white nights suffused with lingering sunlight, and an explosion of festivals and activities to celebrate the warmer months. It’s a perfect time to stroll the city’s Neoclassical centre, modelled on Saint Petersburg’s, hop on a ferry to the island fortress Suomenlinna, or just enjoy the picturesque seaside cafes and restaurants.



#3: Budapest, Hungary

Budapest seems to collect nicknames like they’re going out of style: “Paris of the East”, “Pearl of the Danube”, and “Capital of Spas” to name a few. While Hungary’s capital doesn’t draw in the crowds like the actual Paris, there’s a good reason for the sobriquets. Bombed heavily during World War II, Budapest has risen from the rubble to become one of Eastern Europe’s most treasured cities. Ambling down the grand boulevards of its baroque, neoclassical, and art nouveau core is like stepping back in time, but Budapest is also a modern metropolis with innovative contemporary designs, fantastic cuisine, and a buzzing bar and club scene.



2. Ljubljana, Slovenia

Legend has it that Jason and the Argonauts founded Ljubljana after battling a fearsome dragon in the emerald Ljubljanica River. Today, although there are still dragons, the city is an ambler’s delight, a small, unhurried, but exuberant capital, with a charming Old Town watched over by the commanding Ljubljana Castle. Winner of the 2016 European Green Capital Award, Ljubljana is a city of parks, gardens, and leafy riverbanks, with limited traffic in its centre. A large student population lends a youthful feel to the cafes, squares, and bars, helping to make one of Europe’s smallest capitals also one of its liveliest and most festive.



#1: Gothenburg, Sweden

Hip, historic, and easy-going, Sweden’s “Little London” has it all, but is often eclipsed by the country’s capital Stockholm. An industrial port town once best known for shipbuilding, Gothenburg has reinvented itself as a scenic city of canals, cafes, and pedestrianized boulevards, where the old and new intermingle: from neoclassical squares and nineteenth century wooden houses, to modern art galleries and fashionable boutiques. Time it right, and you can make it for the acclaimed Gothenburg Film Festival, the largest in Scandinavia, or three day music festival Way Out West.
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