When you think about traveling through Europe, what comes to mind? If you said, “Checking out Brno, Czech Republic” you’re actually pretty awesome. But most people think Eiffel Tower. The Roman Colosseum. Brandenburg Gate. Paris, Rome and Berlin are pretty nifty places, but why not toss in a few surprisingly charming small European cities that you might not have considered? Not only are they far cheaper than places like Vienna, you can definitely spend a day or two walking around the city. For this list, I’m only including cities that I have personally been to.
10. Ljubljana, Slovenia
A city that nobody can pronounce. A country that nobody can find on a map (and often gets confused with Slovakia). With a population of around 280,000, one of the smallest capitals in all of Europe, but on a nice day it is perfect for exploring. The city dates back nearly 1,000 years and while the area outside of the city center is fairy drab and “Communist”-looking the center itself is well preserved with a mixture of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles of architecture. While walking around, you have seven bridges to choose from, each with its own unique appearance.
9. Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
A quarter of a century ago, Sarajevo was a war-torn city full of rubble and despair. But today, it’s a thriving capital that looks part Western Europe and part Istanbul. Its idyllic setting –
located in the narrow valley of the Miljacka River at the foot of Mount Trebevic – and religious diversity make it a destination worth visiting. My favorite area was Baščaršija, a bustling market in the historical center of the city that dates back to the 1400s.
8. Kosice, Slovakia
Named the European Capital of Culture in 2013, Kosice features a massive gothic church known as St. Elisabeth Cathedral as well as a smaller 14th century church called St. Michael Chapel. The city center is lined with open air cafes on either side of the street and you’ll find some really good (and cheap!) locally brewed beer if that’s your thing.
7. Riga, Latvia
Located on the Baltic Sea at the mouth of the River Daugava, Riga is notable for its wooden buildings, art nouveau architecture (with more than 800 buildings in this style) and medieval Old Town. Most of the city center was destroyed during WWII and wasn’t rebuilt until the 1990s, but these days it’s a pretty happening place to be with tons of cafes and nightclubs. Discount airlines such as WizzAir and RyanAir offer really cheap flights to the city.