Hey everyone! Today I have another great guest post for you! This time it’s from Life is a camino. Enjoy 😉
London. Paris. Rome. Everyone knows the big cities in Europe are amazing and full of incredible history, food, nightlife, and more food (I repeated myself because I’m a big proponent of traveling with my stomach). But there’s more to Europe than the big capital cities. I spent almost three years traveling all over the continent and found more than a few hidden gems. If you’re looking for inspiration on where to go for your next big trip, you should think about fitting one of these beautiful, underrated cities in Europe onto your itinerary. Bon Voyage!
- Split, Croatia
This jewel of the Adriatic is the capital of Croatia’s uber-popular Dalmatian region, and is a great place to visit year-round. Tourists from all over the world discovered this gem of a city following Croatia’s independence from Yugoslavia in the 1990s. The beating heart of Split is the 1,700 year-old Palace of Diocletian, whose Roman walls still surround the old part of the city. The view from the top of the 14th century bell tower of Saint Domnius is not for the faint of heart, but you’ll be rewarded with an incredible view of the city in all directions, the blue Adriatic Sea to the West, and the rugged mountains that form the spine of Dalmatia to the East.
- Caen, France
The region of Normandy is best known for Camembert cheese, apple cider, the Allied D-Day invasion to liberate France from German occupation, and if you really know your history, for its central role as the homeland of William the Conqueror, the man responsible for putting Latin into English. Caen is the provincial capital of Lower Normandy and is a fascinating city. While much of the city was destroyed by a vicious aerial bombardment during the D-Day landings, the Abbaye aux Hommes is a perfectly preserved Romanesque church, the Chateau in the center of the old town still retains its impressive bastions, and the city is an easy day trip away from historic sites including the D-Day landing beaches, Bayeaux (of tapestry fame), and the fairy tale-like island of Mont St. Michel. There’s a really cool permaculture farm 5km on the outskirts of Caen where I spent 5 weeks volunteering, in case you want to crash for the long-term.
- Cagliari, Italy
Not enough people visit the island of Sardinia, which is a shame because it’s got a wealth of culture and history to share with those who visit. Cagliari is the largest city and capital of this Mediterranean paradise. It’s a big enough city that there’s plenty of nightlife – the Piazza Carlo Alberto has tons of young people drinking on the steps of a nearby church, and the Piazza del Carmine is a great place sit on a terrace bar and have a cocktail – but sprawling and varied enough to keep you busy seeing all sorts of local monuments. The Roman amphitheater here is one of the most impressive in the Mediterranean; built into a steep hillside overlooking the sea, it once seated more than 20,000 spectators. In another section of Cagliari, you can climb the old Torre di San Pancrazio, a medieval watchtower that once protected the city from invaders. And if you don’t feel in the mood for a history lesson, 8 km Poetto beach has crystal clear water and plenty of sand to stretch out in.
- San Sebastian, Spain
Spaniards are notoriously tribal, but almost all of them agree that San Sebastian is one of the prettiest cities in the entire country. Its dramatic setting, with the steep green mountains of the Basque country rising behind it, its two distinct beaches – Zurriola for surfing and Concha for sunbathing – its lively historic center, and its notoriety for having the highest concentration of Michelin stars per square km make it an ideal destination for pretty much every taste. While the locals are a little crustier than you might find farther south in, say, Sevilla, the Basques are proud of their heritage, language, and cuisine. And if you manage to make a friend with a Basque, as the saying goes, you will be friends for life.
- Ghent, Belgium
Ghent is one of the most eclectic, hippie, and fun cities in Europe. This probably has something to do with its many students, who keep this city progressive and just straight-up weird (in comparison to Brussels, Belgium’s capital, which feels a bit more . . . normal). While there are many churches in this picturesque city, most of them have been co-opted for other purposes. It’s not uncommon to walk into one and find an art installation or a concert happening. Along the central canals of the city, bars and pubs serving excellent Belgian beer make it a natural watering hole for people to socialize in, and numerous music venues, bookshops, cafes, and vintage markets make Ghent an incredibly vibrant, fun place to hang out.
If you’re stuck in the USA reading this and want nothing more than to visit these incredible cities, you should subscribe to New York to London Flights – a free newsletter that sends you daily roundtrip flight deals from major US cities to destinations all over Europe, such as Los Angeles to Budapest for $450.
All of these places seem really great. I’ve been to San Sebastian (read about it here) and Gent, and must say both were really great! Thank you very much for this post and don’t forget to check Life is a camino for more great posts!
(Photos from Life is a camino)