European countries are some of the most well-traveled places on the planet. Still, there are plenty of overlooked and underrated spots. Heck, even some of those frequently-visited destinations get a bad rap. In fact, that’s where I’ll start my list. Here are some of the most underrated destinations in Europe, in no particular order:
Cinque Terre, Italy
I know what you’re thinking. How is one of the most popular places in all of Italy underrated? Well, because there are some people out there who seem to think it’s overrated. Maybe that’s because the colorful towns don’t pop as much as they do in an amateur photographer’s oversaturated Instagram shots. Maybe they went in the busy summer season and only walked along the busy streets. All I know is, it’s an amazing destination. Whether you’re visiting Monterosso al Mare, Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Manarola or Corniglia – or all five – you'll see something uniquely incredible. In fact, there’s a hiking trail that links the northernmost town with the southernmost, making for an unbelievable full day or two (or many more) of exploring. There’s even a quiet nude beach called Guvano nearest to Corniglia. Yes, places like the famous Cinque Terre can be jam-packed with tourists, but there’s always a way to make your experience unforgettable at a distinctly beautiful area of the western Italy coastline.
About an hour down the coastline from Barcelona, Tarragona is a place you must visit while you’re in Spain. First off, it’s beautiful and much quieter than Barcelona (which I would absolutely still recommend, by the way). But for those interested in history, it’s a treasure trove of the ancient Roman Empire. It’s the oldest Roman settlement in Spain and there are many well-preserved sites such as the necropolis, Roman circus and an amphitheater next to the sea. Don’t forget to visit Les Ferreres Aqueduct as well. A few miles north of the city, it was constructed more than 2,000 years ago and was built to supply water to the city, then called Tarraco.
Full of canals and cobblestones, Bruges is a lovely city to spend some time and not given much credit, passed up by travelers in favor of larger cities like Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent. The entire historic center of Bruges is noted as a World Heritage Site, famous for its Gothic buildings.
The capital city of Slovakia, Bratislava might get passed up for nearby Vienna, Austria. Bratislava is gorgeous and a more budget-friendly stop in that part of the continent. Billing itself as “the city where you find real life,” it is rich with history and is the only national capital that borders two sovereign states (Austria and Hungary). Be sure to make time for the Bratislava Castle and Michael’s Gate, built around the year 1300.
In the shadow of the Italian island’s Mount Etna, Taormina is often passed up for the much larger city of Catania. I’ve only been to that city’s airport, so I don’t want to badmouth it, but I’m almost certain that Taormina is more worth a trip. While you’re there, be sure to spend some time at the Teatro Antico di Taormina, the remains of an ancient Greco-Roman theater where you may catch someone taking advantage of the acoustics by bellowing out a rousing song rendition.
Maybe it’s a little brash of me to include such a massive region as an underrated destination, but this whole part of Europe is indeed terribly underrated. Many people dismiss the countries – Denmark, Norway, Sweden (and sometimes Finland and Iceland) – because they’re colder, but skipping Scandinavia for a warmer trip is silly. By the way, highs in the 60s and 70s from June through September are hardly freezing. With some of the most picturesque cities and landscapes in the world, Scandinavia is massively underrated. That’s not to mention those countries are among the cheapest to fly to from New York City. What are you waiting for?