Having seen a fair few places around Europe now, I thought it might be time to write an article about some real hidden gems. So, in no particular order, here are 10 suggestions of cities you may not have come across:
Haven’t heard of Budapest? I’m not surprised! It’s not exactly on most people’s radar when it comes to European city breaks, but it can pay off to find somewhere that’s a little bit off the beaten track.
But be prepared: you may not know this but the people Budapest speak a language called Hungarian, named after the country of Hungary in which the city can be found (not to be confused with how I feel after I haven’t eaten for a while!! Top tip: locals love to hear jokes about the similarity between those two words).
The quality and affordability of the beer here is a little-known secret – in fact, Budapest may even make a great alternative destination for a stag do (bachelor party). With tourism still very much in its infancy in this charming city, you can be sure that you’ll avoid running into any of the traps that can plague the more better-known cities.
Vienna? Isn’t that a song by Ultravox? You’re quite right, but the city that Midge Ure’s song refers to is actually a real place.
Situated just an hour away from Bratislava, Vienna is more than just a day trip from Slovakia’s capital city. In fact, it’s starting to develop a reputation as a hub for great art and culture. Don’t believe me? Try taking a trip to one of Vienna’s several museums, where you can find anything from art to modern art.
Just don’t tell the locals that it means nothing to you!! That’s an incorrect interpretation of the song and it doesn’t make any sense to describe the city in this way.
The Netherlands? Holland? We don’t even know what to call this country! It’s not surprising that we don’t know much about its places of interest.
The capital of The Hollands is called Amsterdam, and it really is worth a little visit. Whisper it quietly, but this is one of the few places in Europe where you can legally purchase and smoke marijuana! Sounds crazy, right? Here, they have what they euphemistically call ‘coffee shops’, where locals gather to smoke, relax and catch up on the day’s gossip. Most tourists don’t know about them and as such they can be quite hard to find, but if you’re savvy enough to ask someone in the know, then they’ll point you in the right direction.
But be warned: it might be a bit stronger than what you’re used to! Luckily, residents of Amsterdam find the sight of slightly intoxicated travellers roaming the streets in search of anything to sate their desire for ‘the munchies’ truly hilarious!
One of Europe’s best-kept secrets, this quaint city is often referred to as the ‘Birmingham of the South’ due to its many canals. Yes, that’s right: while tourists may flock to the UK’s 2nd city for a glimpse of their world-famous canals, there is a city in Italy that has almost as many as its more celebrated British rival:
They are arguably almost as beautiful, too. Getting around can be a little tricky – no chance of getting a lift in a car here! – but the locals have found a way of going from A to B using gondolas or ‘boats’. It can be easy to get lost in these winding streets and alleyways, but don’t worry: when the people of Venice spot a confused outsider, they are likely to offer you a ride in their ‘boat’ for free.
When people take a trip to the UK, they often use London as a stopover point to visit other parts of the country. But it would be a real shame to spend just one night in this bustling metropolis of over 300 000 people.
London is has long been keen to shake its reputation as dour, industrial and purgatorial and though it’s not quite there yet, the green shoots are there for a re-birth of the town that gave us Harry Redknapp, Ed Miliband and Chas & Dave.
One of the best things to do in London is to visit Big Ben, who runs the Dog & Duck pub in Penge. He’s a lovely bloke.
Although Berlin may be outshone by its more celebrated rivals for partying – Erfurt and Hoyerswerda spring to mind! – this is one city that you do not want to miss if you love a good party. Here, they love to play a new type of underground music called ‘techno’, which is slowly beginning to become known throughout the rest of the continent. The parties here can get pretty crazy too. It’s not uncommon to see bleary-eyed clubbers emerging from a night’s revelry at 2 or even 3 o’clock in the morning.
Berlin is perhaps the best place you can go to see the ‘real Germany’. Although you may struggle to get by here if you only speak English, locals love to practise theirs, as they don’t get much of a chance to.
Some say that Berlin might become overrun with tourism in the next decade or so: my advice would be to go there now before that happens!
When you think of Europe’s oldest cities, most people immediately think of Plovdiv, Damascus and Milton Keynes, but there is one that has as much history as all of its own history put together. Its name?
Often described as the ‘Venice of Italy’, due to its location in Italy, Rome is so old it even has its own civilisation named after it: Ancient Rome (or, as they called it at the time: Rome). Here, you can stumble across buildings that are decades and sometime even centuries old (giving popularity to the phrase ‘Roman Centurion’). One of my favourite things to in Rome is to have a good walk all over these ancient buildings and really get a feel for how it was like to be an Ancient Roman.
Clambering on these artefacts is tolerated, and even encouraged, so as the old saying goes: ‘When in Rome, live life to the full’.
Fun fact about Rome: It was built so quickly, some even say that it was built in a single day!
On the shore of the Mediterranean Sea lies a town called Barcelona (pronounced ‘Tharcelona’). Although generally thought to be part of Catalonia, Barcelonans are proud of their Spanish heritage and one should always bear this in mind when speaking to local residents.
Barcelonites love their food, particularly tapas (pronounced ‘thapas’), which is eaten as a light dessert washed down with a glass of cerveza (pronounced ‘ser-vay-za’). It has better weather than you might expect for a Mediterranean city – they even have a beach here!
So while all your friends flock to Scandinavia over the summer in search of sea, sun and sand, you can impress them all with pictures of this gem of a city. You’ll be the hit of Instagram!
Ah, France… La Vieux, La Fourviere, Le Cour des Voraces… Yes, when you think of La France, you could easily forgiven for thinking of one city alone: Lyon.
Not by me though! If you go to France and only visit Lyon, then it’s to the tower with you to be hung, drawn and quatre-d! The city of Paris should be on everyone’s list for places to visit. The main attraction here is a tower called the Eiffel Tower, named after Charles ‘Eiffel’ de Gaulle and based on the famous radio mast in Crystal Palace Park. You can see this tower from any place in the city as long as the weather is clear and there aren’t any buildings in the way!
Paris is famous for its hospitality: if you go into a café here and order a café, you will be greeted with a smile and a Wilkommen au Paris!
But visit soon – although it may be cheap at the moment, locals grumble that prices are slowly starting to rise.
Yes, yes, I know this was supposed to be an article about hidden gems, but I couldn’t resist including this one! The Big Apple. The City of Love. The Jewel in Transnistria’s Crown.
What is there to be said that hasn’t already been said about this place? Well, arguably nothing, so I’ll just leave it at that!!