Europe’s major mega-capitals — London, Paris, Moscow, Madrid, Berlin and Rome — tend to hog the spotlight, enjoying the lion’s share of visitors and tourists’ dollars. But Europe is also home to much smaller but also supercool capitals, a series of mini metropolises, each with its own fascinatingly unique appearance, history, and vibe.
These hidden gems are fun, friendly, accessible and often even more rewarding to explore than the big boys due to the sense of mystery and adventure that comes with going off the beaten track.
So, without further ado, it’s time to feast your eyes on our list of five European capitals that are smaller, less visited and more mysterious than their supersized continent-mates — and, in our reckoning, even more fun for it!
Don’t forget to take note of the cities than most excite you in your BUCKiTDREAM planner.
Experience the White-Hot Capital Of the Balkans Belgrade, Serbia, is hustle and bustle, big business and wild nightlife. This city pulses with excitement and has a uniquely boisterous and wonderful atmosphere. There are an exuberance and confidence to Belgrade that easily matches even the brashest sections of New York. Belgrade is no shrinking violet. Its nightlife is thoroughly world-class: exciting, varied, super late and super fun. The architecture is a crazy mix of art nouveau masterpieces, Habsburg and Ottoman relics, functional and ugly socialist blocks, and zany modern oddities. It’s not necessarily classy, but it’s certainly interesting! The Old Town has lots of great local restaurants and bars. Atmospheric coffee houses abound along Knez Mihailova Street, the main pedestrian and shopping zone, and a killer modern art scene bubbles away under the surface of this busy, up-and-coming city. Belgrade also has many elegant museums, theaters, and galleries. It is impossible to be bored in Belgrade!
Laugh Out Loud in Edinburgh A mecca for culture and comedy, Edinburgh, Scotland, the Athens of the North is a veritable cuckoo’s nest of culture perched up in the higher branches of Great Britain. Edinburgh is a city of great thinkers and great ideas. It has been a producing world-changing philosophy, art, literature and scientific breakthroughs for thousands of years. The city plays host to one of the best theater and comedy festivals each summer — Edinburgh Fringe — and the Scottish Parliament sits in the Holyrood neighborhood of the city. Edinburgh architecture is beautiful and elegant; the buildings, built in stark stone, are strong and proud. Edinburgh Castle, peering down over the city from its perch high up on Castle Rock, is one of Britain’s most spectacular ancient fortresses. In addition to all this history and culture, the Scottish capital is packed with great bars, award-winning restaurants, and first-rate hotels. A visit to Edinburgh will live long in your memory.
Be Charmed By the Baltic Tallinn, Estonia, is a bona fide Baltic beauty, This Eastern European capital is petite, classy and devastatingly pretty. Tallinn is full of Baltic charm, with cobbled streets, ancient churches, and medieval squares rubbing shoulders with exquisite modern architecture and elegant urban gardens. There are restaurants serving tasty, robust Estonian cuisine (as well as plenty of international fares), arty cafés and lots of lively bars. The Old Town is a maze of tight, winding streets with a distinctly fairytale vibe whether you visit in the summer sun or in the winter snow. There is a great selection of hotels, shops, galleries, and museums, too. Tallinn is a maiden who steals the hearts of all who visit her!
Get into Trouble in Ireland Cozy and compact, Dublin, Ireland, crackles with a sense of fun and mischief. Dublin is a port city whose reputation precedes it in a rather large way. For a place of its size, the city has had a huge impact on the world. Some of the most famous and loved music, poetry, and literature that the Western world has ever produced has come out of this diminutive city. Dublin is a small city with a big voice. As you might imagine, the pub scene in Dublin is second to none. The city is packed with lively bars serving pints of the world-famous Guinness stout to the hauntingly melodies of old and new Irish music. The atmosphere in the city is like nowhere else in the world: unique, friendly and alive. There are great places to eat; grand coffee and tea rooms; and myriad music, art, and theater venues all over the city. Visit Dublin, and experience the craic for yourself!
Search For Treasure in Hungary Budapest, Hungary, is a treasure trove of ancient and modern delights. This ancient central European city has a haunting, aching beauty that seeps into your bones. Wonderful art nouveau architecture and a family of elegant bridges traversing the Danube make Budapest a city chock-full of romantic and unforgettable views. The city is blessed with lots of natural hot springs, and there are plenty of bathhouses in which to have a luxurious and reinvigorating soak. Hungarian wine is excellent, and the local cuisine is hearty and delicious. There are lots of local restaurants all over Budapest. The Hungarian capital is a taste of old Europe that will leave wanting more!
So that was our list of Europe’s top give off-the-beaten track, hidden gem capital cities. Whether you are dancing the night away is a crazy Belgrade nightclub, sampling Guinness in its natural environment in Dublin or taking a romantic stroll across the Danube in Budapest, make sure to share your experiences on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter so your friends and family can add these destinations to their BUCKiTDREAM list.