Underrated Places in Europe that You Need to Visit

Most Underrated Under visited Cities in Europe Timisoara Romania

Hey Owlets,

A few weeks ago I asked on Twitter what you thought were the most over-rated places in Europe, and that tweet blew up to the point that I couldn’t reply to everyone because I got blocked for sending too many tweets! Having been quite harsh to a few places that you really didn’t agree with in my last article, I thought it was only fair to be a little more positive and also give the most underrated places a mention. These are the places where you stand in your idyllic surroundings and think “why aren’t there more people here?” and the answer is most likely that they’re not heard of it yet - as much as I would like to keep them to myself and continue to enjoy these beautiful places in peace I think it’s only fair to share them with you. 

Most Underrated Under visited Cities in Europe Toulon France

Toulon, France

Toulon is probably the closest you can get to a tropical paradise without leaving Europe, yet no one knows it exists even when it’s part of a cruise ship itinerary. This beautiful town really is a hidden gem with lots of history, great restaurants, friendly locals, stunning beaches and terrible marketing - I say this because no-one seems to know it exists. 

We were lucky enough to visit on a cruise in 2017 - the cruise ship called at a port just across the bay from Toulon and it was a €10 watertaxi into the town. A lot of people refused to pay this and walked out of the industrial port and came back within the hour complaining that there was nothing to do. We decided to ignore them and got on the water taxi to see it for ourselves - we had a day there so we might as well make the most of it and I’m so glad we did. When we moored we were greeted by a small rank of shops and thought “is this it?” but we kept walking and soon found ourselves on a golden beach with the bluest ocean I’ve ever seen that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a Caribbean island. We stopped for a coffee at the beach bar and admired the scenery, before finding ourselves adopted by one of the friendly locals who told us all of the wonderful things we could see in her hometown. 

Being totally honest we didn’t “do” a lot while we were there as it was one of the last ports of a busy cruise so it was nice to slow down and relax for a while, but if you’re one of those people who enjoys being busy then Toulon also has things to offer you - the town is a major naval port and has a lot of history relating to this; you can visit the World War II Memoral Museum (Musee Memorial Du Debarquement) housed in an old WWII fortress, the Marine Museum (Musee National de la Marine) or walk to Tour Royale which was the harbour’s first fort, built in the 16th century. If you’re less into history there’s Cours Lafayette which is a busy market in the town centre, the cable car ride into the mountains (Teleferique Du Faron) or the art gallery (Hotel Des Arts). For a place that, on first glance, feels empty it’s got a huge amount to do whatever it is you enjoy while travelling.

Most Underrated Under visited Cities in Europe Rotterdam Netherlands

Rotterdam, Netherlands

If you’re a frequent visitor to The Owlet then you’ll already know how much I love Rotterdam (this being my third or fourth time featuring the city since I visited in April) but I’m not going to stop shouting about this incredible city until cruise ship passengers stop seeing Rotterdam as a port close to Amsterdam and stay to enjoy where they’ve docked.

Rotterdam, despite not being as famous as Amsterdam, is none-the-less full of amazing things to see and do, whether you prefer to stick to touristy places or get off the beaten path. One of the subjects the city is most famous for is architecture, from the cube houses to the Unilever building where they built it to hang over the top of another structure that was in the way. 

Like Toulon, Rotterdam has a large and varied maritime history and this can be seen throughout the city. If you visit for a few days you can stay at Hotel New York which which occupies the original headquarters of Holland America Cruise Line and take a visit by water taxi to SS Rotterdam to explore behind the scenes of the Rotterdam-built ship, enjoy lunch in one of the many restaurants on board or even stay overnight in a cruise ship cabin. If you’re more the kind of person who likes to get out and explore a city rather than visiting to learn more about something then take a walk through the streets which are a mix of traditional and modern architecture, head to Markt to try some unique Dutch food and if you’re brave enough then head to Euromast for the most incredible view of the city. 

We, like most people, originally wanted to visit Amsterdam but decided it was too much travelling for one day so stayed in Rotterdam, and it really makes me wonder why more people don’t do the same. It’s an incredible city with something for everyone, yet it seems to be ignored by just about everyone. If you have the chance to visit Rotterdam then please give it a try rather than following the crowd! If I’ve peaked your interest in the city then take a look at my complete guide to Rotterdam.

Most Underrated Under visited Cities in Europe Cork Ireland

Cork, Ireland

Unlike the other places on this list there isn’t a huge amount to do in Cork, but it’s one of those cute little places that gives you the feel-good factor just by being there, especially if you visit in Autumn or Winter. 

Cork City is a great place to visit if you enjoy walking around, exploring a city and seeing what you can find; it’s full of independent shops, small parks and pretty pubs as well as being home to the famous English Market which is foodie heaven. If you prefer to get out and see something then renting a car to explore the whole of County Cork will be the best option for you. Within a short distance there’s a beautiful church, Cork Gaol which is an incredible experience, and if you drive a little further you can visit Blarney Castle to kiss the stone and gain the gift of the gab. 

Less than half an hour from Cork City is Cobh (pronounced Cove, I have no idea why) - originally called Queenstown it was the last port that Titanic visited before she sank and the ship still has a huge presence in the town today. One of the most interesting things to visit is the Titanic Experience where you are taken through boarding and a day in the life of both first class and third class passengers before experiencing what it was like to be on board as she was sinking. With your ticket you’re given a boarding pass with details of one of the 123 passengers that boarded at  Cobh and at the end you find out whether you survived. You can also visit the Titanic Memorial Gardens which overlooks the journey into port or take a walking tour of the sculptures dedicated to the sea. 

County Cork in general is quite a peaceful place but it’s so full of history, it has an incredible atmosphere and the local residents are so friendly that meeting them in their local pub makes it worth the journey, even if you don’t do anything else. If you’d like to see more of what you can do in the area then have a read of my guide to exploring County Cork.

Most Underrated Under visited Cities in Europe Timisoara Romania

Timisoara, Romania

My final recommendation is the only town that you have to fly to, but it’s well-worth enduring  RyanAir to visit. Unless you’ve already been to Romania you’ve probably never heard of Timisoara but it’s a small city with a huge history. Timisoara (pronounced Timishwara) was the birthplace of the Romanian revolution and was the first city to be declared free from communism. I know that some people find exploring the history of violent events to be too morbid, but if you can stomach it then you’ll come away with a fresh perspective having learnt a lot. When I was there I took part in a walking tour which explored the city and showed us around each of the landmarks that were part of the revolution as well as hearing personal stories from our guide who had lived through it. On the second day we visited the Memorial of Revolution which is a museum run by some of the people who fought against the government. Our guide spoke to us about what it was like to live through communism and what it was like to be part of the revolution then pointed to a few photographs saying “that’s my friend” and “this is me in hospital” which is when it suddenly felt a lot more real. To me, being able to learn about historical events from someone who was there is priceless and I couldn’t recommend visiting enough.

While the revolution is a large part of the city’s history there is still a lot more to see and do. Timisoara is situated in the Banat region of Romania which is where several nationalities came together to create a unique culture - if you love food then you absolutely have to visit because you won’t see anything like Banat food anywhere outside of the region. 

Despite the city’s huge history Timisoara also has a lot of modernity within, from rooftop bars to underground bars-come-art-galleries; there are unique cafes, restaurants and performance spaces wherever you go so you can always find something new and interesting to do. Having been in the city for 5 days I still feel like I could go back and find something new that I’d not seen on the previous trip. I could write pages about this amazing city, so if you want to know more then have a read of my reasons why you need to visit Timisoara article.

Most Underrated Under visited Cities in Europe Sighisoara Romania

Trying to choose my most underrated cities for this post was almost impossible - there are so many places that I could add as honourable mentions, but I think that’s also something to do with the way I choose to travel, talking to locals and looking beyond tourist hotspots to see what it’s like to live in the city. If you’ve been to any of the places I mentioned I’d love to hear your thoughts, and if there’s somewhere you’ve visited that you thought was really underrated I’d also love to know where so I can add it to my to-do list.

Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet 💜 
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