The chances are that, when you think of European cities, it is Paris, Madrid and Berlin that spring to mind. Indeed, these are three of the world’s most desirable tourist destinations thanks to their rich culture, stunning architecture and delicious cuisine. When it comes to booking your next holiday, you would be forgiven for sticking to the popular choices and ignoring many of the other European cities on offer.
However, the continent of Europe is home to a great number of towns and cities bursting with culture and heritage. To give you a helping hand, we’ve put together three of Europe’s hidden gems. If you’re planning a break, consider adding one of these must-see cities to your itinerary.
Founded in the 10th century as a fishing village, Copenhagen was appointed the capital of Denmark in the 15th century. The name, Danish for “merchants harbour”, reflects its origins as a port and source of commerce. With a history dating back to 1043, the region is bursting with landmarks, architecture and sights that reflect the city’s past.
Tivoli Gardens is a must-see for tourists, both young and old. The amusement park, which was founded in 1843, is packed with thrilling rides such as The Demon, which features three loops and reaches 28 metres high at one point. The ride also incorporates virtual reality, catapulting you into a world of fire-breathing dragons, exploding fireworks and Chinese mythology. The park also offers beautiful scenery in its gardens, with the Tivoli Aquarium and Concert Hall Gardens two of the most popular options. Striking architecture and charming patios, on the other hand, are transformed at night, with thousands of lights turning them into a scene from a fairy-tale.
Further afield, you can enjoy a visit to the Langelinje Pier to see one of Copenhagen’s most famous attractions; The Little Mermaid. The bronze statue, inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s story of the same name, is over 100 years old, testifying to the city’s artistic and historical nature. The story later went on to become one of Disney’s most successful movies, with musical adaptations performed around the world. Museums, operas, libraries and restaurants are also available for you to enjoy around Copenhagen, and there are many elements that make up the rich cultural tapestry of the centre.
One of the largest cities in Europe, Budapest is particularly known for its fashion and cuisine. With a European holiday through an operator like Imagine Holidays, you can take in all of the sights and sounds of Budapest, from its stunning fine art to its unbeatable European nightlife offering.
If art is your thing, then a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts will allow you to peruse classic and contemporary masterpieces such as the sculpture collection, which features almost 650 European sculptures covering six centuries. With artworks from the German Late-Gothic, Italian Renaissance, and Austrian Baroque periods, the Museum of Fine Arts offers something for everyone.
Alongside iconic cultural institutions, few European cities rival Budapest’s scenic setting, astride the Danube River. The two sides, Buda and Pest, maintain their own distinct personalities. The first is permeated with ancient history, making it perfect for an evening stroll. The latter side of the river, however, focuses on more urban and cosmopolitan endeavours; so, if you’re looking for a night out mixing with locals and tourists alike, then Budapest is the place for you.
The river and areas around it are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, encompassing many notable landmarks. From the Hungarian Parliament and Gresham Palace to Buda Castle and Széchenyi Chain Bridge, this area is full of cultural experiences in which to immerse yourself. Remember to pack your camera and keep your phone fully charged if you want to capture all of the sights Budapest has to offer – there’s a landmark to explore around every corner.
Alongside being regarded at the “City of Music”, a nod to its musical legacy, Vienna is also referenced as the “City of Dreams”, alluding to its native Sigmund Freud. With roots in Celtic and Roman settlements, the region’s long history is displayed through its attractions and architecture that hint to its origins. The historic centre of the city is a must-see for every tourist, with stunning buildings, monuments and parks dotted around, alongside Baroque castles and gardens, a visit to the hub of the town feels like a step back in time.
According to the Guardian, the modern visitor gets “one of the world’s greatest concentrations of artefacts and art”. With the Kunsthistorisches Museum featuring some of the biggest names in history – Rembrandt, Velazquez and Vermeer – art lovers and those new to it will find something extraordinary. A trip to Vienna would not be complete without a tribute to its music legacy: the Viennese Classicism forms an inherent part of the practice in the early 20th century. At the Viennese State Opera, budget and high-end travellers alike can enjoy the beauty of melodies, with standing seats and boxes suiting every person and every budget.
The contemporary art available at the Kunst Haus Wien, also known as the Museum Hundertwasser, is a must-see for all tourists in Vienna. This quirky museum not only houses a permanent collection of Hundertwasser’s work, but it also features one-off and temporary exhibitions of other artists.
Unlike some European cities, Vienna doesn’t shy away from tourism – indeed, the city offers a range of tours for those looking to broaden their horizons and take in everything Austria has to offer. From evening walking tours to wine tasting bicycle tours, there’s something for the whole family to enjoy.
We’ve delved deeper into Europe’s hidden gems with three must-see cities, but there’s certainly more to Europe than the destinations we’ve listed above. When it comes to exploring a continent as wide and as diverse as Europe, we recommend setting no agenda. Instead, you should see where your holiday takes you – and don’t be afraid of trying something new.