Best Non-Capital City in Every European Country
Capitals tend to be the most famous and exciting cities in a country, with some exceptions (we’re looking at you, U.S. and Turkey). But while we advocate for visiting capitals most of the time, sometimes you just want to go another route and avoid the crowds and clichés.
If you’re well-traveled in Europe and want to focus on second cities on your next trip — or if you simply want to do something different — these are the best non-capital cities in every country in Europe.
Best thing to do: Look over Berat from the top of Kalaja Castle, a 13th-century fortress perched on a hill.
Where to stay: Hotel Colombo
Why visit Berat: This UNESCO World Heritage city is a mix of Ottoman and Albanian architecture. Nicknamed the City of a Thousand Windows, Berat is beautiful.
It is also a cultural center in the country, a place where religions and cultures converge. You’ll find numerous churches and mosques, an old town surrounded by fort walls and small cafes sprinkled throughout.
Overlooking the entire town is the medieval Kalaja Castle, which sits on a neighboring hill.
Note: This list does not include Monaco or Holy See, given their size, but you’ll find a great alternative for every other nation in Europe.
Andorra: El Pas de la Casa
Best thing to do: Hit the slopes at the Grandvalira ski area.
Where to stay: Airbnb near the slopes
Why visit El Pas de la Casa: When you’re as tiny as Andorra, the competition for "best second city" is not too tough. Still, El Pas de la Casa is a place we’d want to go to, even if we weren’t looking to avoid cliches.
The ski town provides plenty of opportunities for having winter fun in the Pyrenees, an underrated range that is overshadowed by the Alps.
Despite its size, El Pas de la Casa also offers good social activities and entertainment after skiing, with several bars and nightclubs around the resorts.
Best thing to do: Visit the towering Fortress Hohensalzburg.
Where to stay: Hotel-Pension Bloberger Hof
Why visit Salzburg: Yes, we are aware that it's cliché to name Salzburg the best city in Austria after Vienna. But we can't deny what's true simply because it's cliché.
Pretty Salzburg is picture-perfect and has many claims to fame. It sits under the protection of the snowy Alps and has the Salzach River running through its middle. Its natural setting is the ideal backdrop for the UNESCO-listed old town, filled with well-preserved medieval and baroque structures and cobblestone streets.
But lest you confuse Salzburg with your run-of-the-mill European town, the city also has a strong cultural heritage. As the home city of Mozart, it places importance on music, holding numerous festivals, operas and concerts throughout the year. Oh, and it was the location where much of "The Sound of Music" was filmed.
Best thing to do: Head to Sovetskaya Street at sunset to see the city's lamplighter light its kerosene lamps. All other lights in the city are kept off until these are lit, making for quite a spectacle.
Where to stay: Hermitage Hotel
Why visit Brest: It was in Brest that Belarusian soldiers famously held off the invading German army for two months during World War II. Though the Brest Fortress, the center of the defense, eventually fell along with most of the country, the impressive resistance continues to be a source of pride for the country.
Of course, the fortress is a must-see when visiting the city, as is the Berest'ye archeological museum.
For leisurely strolling, enjoy famous Sovetskaya Street. The pedestrian street is the center of social life in the city and has many cafes and restaurants.
Best thing to do: Go inside the intricately adorned Basilica of the Holy Blood.
Where to stay: Grand Hotel Casselbergh Bruges
Why visit Bruges: Famous for its beauty, Bruges sometimes overshadows Brussels in the hearts of foreign visitors. The city is crisscrossed by canals that add charm to its cobblestone streets.
Bruges's cityscape is marked by medieval buildings like its 14th-century city hall as well as stone houses. There are also several brick Gothic houses lining the banks of its canals, contrasting the flow of the water with the sharp geometric angles of the architectural style.
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Mostar
Best thing to do: Watch experts from the Mostar Diving Club dive from the city's famous Stari Most bridge into the Neretva River.
Where to stay: Motel Deny Bed & Breakfast
Why visit Mostar: Famed for its beautiful — though reconstructed — arched Stari Most bridge, Mostar is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina's most popular cities. Granted, the country isn't one of Europe's most visited and is usually skipped over for neighboring Croatia. But savvy travelers looking for gorgeous destinations without the crowds shouldn't skip Mostar.
The city's other attractions include the Koski Mehmed-Pasha Mosque, whose minaret provides spanning views of the city and the Old Bridge Museum.
You also will find many remnants of the bloody civil war in the 1990s like the Former Front-Line. This is a sort of "Berlin Wall," marking the place where the city was once divided into West (Croatians) and East (Bosnians).
Best thing to do: Learn about ancient history at the Roman amphitheater, which dates back to the second century.
Where to stay: Hotel Evmolpia
Why visit Plovdiv: Yet another Eastern European country that's skipped over, Bulgaria is much cooler than most people realize. Yes, the capital of Sophia is awesome, but don't skip Plovdiv either.
This nice European second city is the longest inhabited city in the entire country. As expected, this means ruins, lots of ruins. Indiana Jones wannabes, rejoice! You can get even more history at the Regional Archaeological Museum.
Plovdiv is surrounded by seven hills, so we don't even need to tell you it's astonishing.
Best thing to do: Spend as much time as possible around Diocletian's Palace, the ruins of a gigantic palace-fortress that make up a large part of Split's old town.
Where to stay: Heritage Hotel Antique Split
Why visit Split: Unlike many second cities, Split is definitely not overlooked. In fact, the gem of the Dalmatian Coast is on basically every tourist's list when visiting Croatia.
But don't let this stop you from coming and seeing this gorgeous coastal city with your own eyes. The UNESCO World Heritage old town is basically a gigantic palace built by Roman Emperor Diocletian. You'll find stores, cafes, restaurants and street performers congregating within the large complex.
Other great things to do in Split include a winery tour of Putalj Winery, climbing up the bell tower at St. Domnius Cathedral and hiking up Marjan Hill for sweeping views of Split and the ocean.
Best thing to do: Do a tour of Spilberk Castle, a large 13th-century castle with gardens and a city museum.
Where to stay: Barcelo Brno Palace
Why visit Brno: If you visit Czechia, don't skip Prague. Trust us. But once you've gotten acquainted with the fairytale capital city, venture into the lesser-known areas of the country.
Our pick for a city is Brno. (If you want to go to a small town, head to Cesky Krumlov.) What we like about this second city is that it offers a different side of Czechia. Here, you'll be drinking wine instead of beer, and you'll see many more locals around the prettiest parts of town rather than tourists. That's a win in our books.
Still, you can expect medieval castles and impressively adorned cathedrals. You'll also see modernist architecture throughout the city, which, albeit not our favorite, is definitely interesting. For an escape into nature, go to the Moravian Karst, a reserve where you'll find numerous caverns and gorges.
Best thing to do: Learn about pre-Industrial Revolution life in Denmark at the Funen Village open air museum.
Where to stay: Airbnb in city center
Why visit Odense: Most people come to Odense to visit the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen, the brilliant mind behind many of the world's most beloved fairytales, like "The Little Mermaid."
But Odense is also a place to see typical Danish life away from the capital. You'll see modern architecture along with traditional houses.
For a taste of the modern side of the city, spend time at the Odense Harbour. For something more historical, visit Egeskov Castle.
Best thing to do: Learn about Manchester's past as England's center of industry at the Science and Industry Museum, which is housed in an old train station.
Where to stay: Dakota Manchester
Why visit Manchester: Manchester's main claim to fame is its excellent soccer (ahem, excuse us, football) team. But before it was famous for the sport, it was one of England's main industrial hubs, focusing mostly on textiles.
The city's industrial days may be over, but you can still find remnants of the past in museums as well as repurposed industrial architecture. For instance, the Salford Quays dockyards are now home to cultural institutions like the Imperial War Museum.
You can also find pre-Industrial architecture, particularly in the city's gothic churches. Of course, a good pub is always just around the corner.
Best thing to do: Walk around the soup neighborhood, where every street is named after ingredients commonly found in soup.
Where to stay: Hotel Antonius
Why visit Tartu: Tallinn may have all the looks, but Tartu has the brains. This is the cultural and intellectual capital of Estonia, and much of the town centers around its eponymous university and the kind of stimulating atmosphere students seek.
Around town, you'll find urban green spaces like Toomemagi Park, cozy student cafes and 18th-century wooden houses right by the river. Tartu is the oldest city in Estonia, so expect to be met with bits of history from various periods of time everywhere you turn.
Best thing to do: Spend a day visiting the 10 museums and exhibitions at the Vapriikki Museum Center.
Where to stay:Radisson Blu Grand Hotel Tammer
Why visit Tampere: What makes Tampere so appealing is the two lakes that surround it, providing fluvial landscapes galore. You can see rapids as you walk through the tree-lined streets of the city center. To contrast the lakes, there are plenty of urban parks around the city.
You’ll find much of what you can expect to find in a European city, beautiful old churches, history museums and many, many cafes. But the city is also decidedly modern and young, with bars and restaurants galore as well as independent galleries around town.
The city also has filled its streets with sculptures, making for a large and accessible public art project.
Best thing to do: Take a funicular up to the Fourvière Basilica, where you'll get the best views of Lyon.
Where to stay: Hotel Vaubecour
Why visit Lyon: It’s hard to decide between France’s major cities outside of Paris, but if we must, Lyon takes the crown. It may not have Bordeaux’s vineyards or Nice’s astonishing ocean views, but it does have what is considered the best gastronomy in France, which counts for a lot.
The city is also one of the prettiest in the country, with a perfect old town filled with Renaissance and medieval buildings and an ancient Roman Amphiteatre perched on top of a hill.
Besides, Lyon is the birthplace of cinema and boasts the largest urban park in the entire country, Parc de la Tête d’Or.
Population: 1.472 million
Best thing to do: Drink a pint (or two) at the famed Hofbrauhaus beer garden.
Where to stay: Beyond by Geisel
Why visit Munich: Listen, we’re not going to stand here and deny that Berlin is the coolest city in Germany. We’re not liars. But Munich is a pretty close second and certainly offers a different kind of experience.
Where Berlin is intense and effortlessly but intimidatingly cool, Munich is approachable and friendly. People here are much more likely to smile at you than to roll their eyes at your obvious tourist status. Perhaps all the beer is what helps everyone be in a good mood, since Munich is basically the world capital of beer and the host of Oktoberfest.
When you don’t spend the night drinking pint after pint, you can head to the mountains for some moderate hiking.
Best thing to do: Learn about ancient history at the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki.
Where to stay: Electra Palace Thessaloniki
Why visit Thessaloniki: Everyone and their mother visits Athens and the islands — and they certainly should! But it would be nice if more people turned their eyes north toward Greece’s second city, Thessaloniki.
Sure, it doesn’t have the famous ruins of Athens, but it does have beaches on the Aegean Sea. (Take that, Athens!). It also has Sephardic Jewish structures and its share of astonishing ancient remains, including Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman ruins.
That being said, a great part of the city burned in the early 20th century, so many of its buildings are decidedly modern. We actually like this, as the contrast of modern architecture with ancient buildings makes for an interesting cosmopolitan identity.
Best thing to do: Spend time at the UNESCO-listed Early Christian Necropolis of Pecs.
Where to stay: Adele Boutique Hotel
Why visit Pecs: Few tourists ever go outside of Budapest, which is quite a shame. If you get the chance next time you’re in Hungary, head to the ancient city of Pecs, which was founded in the second century by Roman settlers.
What we like about Pecs is that it’s a typical Central European town, with main squares, impressive cathedrals and narrow streets. But here, you won’t see large tour groups or thousands of souvenir shops selling tacky memorabilia.
Best thing to do: Descend into the belly of Thríhnúkagígur Volcano, the only place in the world where you can go into the magma chamber of an active volcano.
Where to stay: Cottage with sauna on Airbnb
Why visit Hafnarfjordur: Just south of Reykjavik, Hafnarfjordur was the center of Viking culture and continues to be the best Icelandic town for anyone interested in learning more about the Norse pirates. The town even holds a Viking Festival every year.
Besides delving into history, the most popular activities in town revolve around nature. This is Iceland after all. Volcanic activity defines the landscape of the town, with the Thrihnukagigur Volcano and numerous lava tubes and fields being popular attractions.
You also can drive to Krysuvik Cliffs to see the freezing sea crashing fiercely onto wind-worn cliffs.
Best thing to do: Do some stargazing at the Blackrock Castle observatory.
Where to stay:The Montenotte Hotel
Why visit Cork: Outside of Dublin, many Irish people prefer Cork to the actual capital. Ireland’s second city doesn’t have all the flashy modern buildings that Dublin does, nor the number of international expats and tourists. But for some people, this is a good thing.
Cork is decidedly more laid back, surrounded by green hills and an idyllic countryside. Within town, locals are famous for their friendliness and you can easily walk your way through everything you want to see in the city.
Don’t worry, pub culture is just as strong here as it is in Dublin.
Population: 1.352 million
Best thing to do: See Da Vinci's "The Last Supper" at Santa Maria delle Grazie church.
Where to stay:Park Hyatt, Milan
Why visit Milan: No, Milan isn’t as beautiful as Florence or Venice, but we’d rate it as the best city outside of Rome because it hasn’t been invaded by zombified hordes of tourists — at least not yet.
While the two cities struggle with invasion, Milan spends its time thinking of ways it can innovate the world of fashion and design. What comes out of the city often inspires the rest of the world and this gives it a buzz of modernity that smells like possibilities and new ideas.
And you’ll still find the quintessential Italian landmarks here, including the Milan Cathedral, the city’s most famous landmark. There are also old, beautiful churches and tiny cobbled streets, all next to modern bars and nightclubs.
Best thing to do: Take a leisurely stroll along the long and beautiful Jurmala Beach.
Where to stay: Wooden Villa Aparthotel
Why visit Jurmala: The good thing about Jurmala is that you can easily visit from Riga. Even if your original itinerary was to only spend time in the capital, you can do a day trip to the resort town.
Jurmala is very popular with national tourists, particularly for its long, pretty coastline along the Baltic. The coastline is made even prettier by the wooden houses that decorate the town. Even if you go in summer, expect the water to be absolutely freezing.
But even if you can’t stomach the cold, getting a bit of sea breeze is always a good idea.
Best thing to do: Be in awe of the Burg Gutenberg, a 12-century castle that has managed to remain intact until today.
Where to stay: Hotel Hofbalzers
Why visit Balzers: Tiny Liechtenstein is one of the 10 least visited countries in the world. People who do make the trip over from Austria or Switzerland usually head to the capital of Vaduz.
But if you have more than a day to spend here and want to see other places, head south to Balzers. The town's biggest draw is how preserved the unique local culture remains, with traditional festivals and rituals fending off most hints of modernity.
Walking around, trying local food and taking in the mountain views are really the only things to do. Well, that and visiting the impressively intact Gutenberg Castle.
Best thing to do: See the ruins of the red Kaunas Castle.
Where to stay: Old Town studio by the river
Why visit Kaunas: Lithuania's second city is where the country's nightlife scene thrives. You can thank the large student population for bringing great parties, threater groups and numerous music festivals to the city.
If you visit, you can check all the typical must-sees: the ruins of Kaunas Castle, the picturesque Old Town and the 16th-century City Hall. Once those are crossed off, you can enjoy the city's numerous museums and art galleries.
Make sure to check for a list of cultural events on the dates you're visiting. Something interesting is guaranteed to be happening.
Best thing to do: Hike along the scenic Mulertal Trail, famous for its unique rock formations along the River Sure and arching stone bridges.
Where to stay: Hotel Eden au Lac
Why visit Echternach: We know we're focusing on cities rather than towns, but the small nation of Luxembourg doesn't have much in terms of cities. It's all for the best, because it means we can include Echternach, the oldest town in the country.
Looking like a town out of a Brothers Grimm story, Echternach is tranquil. Its charm consists of its laid-back attitude, though it does have interesting landmarks such as the ruins of a Roman Villa and the Pre-History Museum.
If you happen to be in town (or in neighboring Germany) around the third week of Pentecost, make sure you see the beautiful dancing procession of Whit Tuesday. This religious festival has been celebrated for half a millennia and is truly amazing to witness.
Best thing to do: Walk around the city's Cittadella, a medieval fortified complex that has incredible views of the city.
Where to stay: The Duke Boutique Hotel
Why visit Victoria: Located in Gozo Island, Victoria is locally referred to as Rabat. The city is mainly marked by a large Medieval citadel that houses several landmarks like the Gozo Cathedral and the Gozo Museum of Archaeology.
Other interesting sites include the gold-clad St. George's Basilica, with its iconic red dome, an old prison from the 1500s and the perfectly kept Villa Rundle Gardens.
Best thing to do: Go to Soroca Fortress, from where the town has defended itself against invasion by Tartars, Cossacks, Poles and Russians.
Where to stay: Hotel Central
Why visit Soroca: One of Moldova's centers of commerce, Soroca has long held a position of historical importance. This is mostly due to its location next to the border with Ukraine and on the banks of the Dniester River, which has left it susceptible to invasions.
The town is somewhat stuck in time, both in its architecture and in its population, which hasn't changed much within the last century. The city is not the largest outside of the capital of Chisinau, but it is one of the most interesting because of its history as a military post.
Besides visiting the Soroca Fortress, you can see the Museum of History and Ethnography. Or climb up the 650 stairs of the Candle Monument for views of the town and the river.
Best thing to do: Drive outside of town to Lovcen National Park to see the famous Ostrog Monastery, carved into rocks.
Where to stay: Beautiful stone house
Why visit Cetinje: You wouldn't know it by the city's lack of fame outside of Montenegro, but Cetinje spent most of its history as the country's capital.
As such, it still holds incredible importance to Montenegro and is considered a spiritual center. One of its most famous landmarks is the large stone Cetinje Monastery, which was destroyed numerous times by the Ottomans, then rebuilt by the people.
It also still houses important buildings, such as the Presidential Residence and the National Museum of Montenegro.
Population: 1.307 million
Best thing to do: Climb the 465 steps of the Gothic Dom Tower and enjoy the panorama.
Where to stay: Mary K Hotel
Why visit Utrecht: We love Amsterdam for its beautiful canals and strong bike culture, but we lament that people too often fail to visit Utrecht.
Many people describe the city as a smaller Amsterdam without the crowds. It's easy to see the resemblance. For one, Utrecht also has beautiful canals that cross through historic neighborhoods and reflect medieval buildings on their waters.
The university town has good nightlife, with numerous pubs and clubs that keep the streets lively late into the night.
North Macedonia: Bitola
Best thing to do: Walk around the ruins of the Heraclea Lyncestis and see the preserved Roman mosaics within them.
Where to stay: Hotel Teatar
Why visit Bitola: A city with thousands of years of history, Bitola was founded by the Romans and was later part of the Ottoman Empire.
As such, the city is embedded with whispers of past empires, such as the Roman baths and the Old Bazaar. The latter is still very much active, with a large covered marketplace selling fresh produce as well as souvenirs.
Bitola is also at a crossroads of three mountain ranges, which means it is surrounded by beautiful mountain landscapes where you can go for hikes or picnics.
Best thing to do: Do a cruise tour to Sognefjord, Norway's deepest and longest fjord.
Where to stay: Opus XVI
Why visit Bergen: Bergen is the quintessential Norwegian city, especially in its old wharf, where wooden houses painted different colors adorn the edge of the water.
The town itself is nice to walk around and has many restaurants where you can try Norwegian cuisine. But the real jewel of Bergen — and, really, of Norway — is the natural landscape.
You can take a funicular up to Floyen Mountain, the city's most famous lookout point. Cruising next to fjords and hiking are also popular activities.
Best thing to do: Go underground to see the Wieliczka Salt Mine, whose famous salt cathedral has received illustrious visitors like Goethe, Chopin and Copernicus.
Where to stay: Metropolitan Boutique Hotel
Why visit Krakow: Without a doubt, Krakow is Poland's most beautiful city. It was the country's capital until the late 16th century, which is why its 13th-century main square, Rynek Glowny, seems more fit for a capital than a second city.
The square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to many of Krakow's top tourist attractions, like St. Mary's Basilica.
Other interesting landmarks include the Jewish quarter and the Wieliczka Salt Mine, one of the world's most awesome underground attractions.
Best thing to do: Catch the sunset at Passeio das Virtudes, where you can get perfect views of the Douro River. Don't forget to bring wine and snacks for a picnic.
Where to stay: Torel 1884 Suites & Apartments
Why visit Porto: Gorgeous, gorgeous Porto gives Lisbon a run for its money, coming in at second place as the best city in Portugal only because its beauty attracts too many tourists.
Still, don't let this deter you from spending time here, especially if you can make it during the week to avoid the weekender crowd. The northern city is known for its azulejos, the typical Portuguese tiles that you'll see in train stations, stores and churches.
Much of its prettiness comes from the Douro River, which makes its medieval Ribeira district an incredibly pleasant and refreshingly different European old town center. You can walk around and see the colorful houses tightly stacked on top of each other, like a pack of pretty sardines.
Take the dos Guindais funicular past terracotta-roofed houses for great views over the city, stop by the famously stunning Livraria Lello and visit as many churches as possible. In between touring around, make sure you sample the region's sweet port wines.
Best thing to do: Get cultured at the National Museum of Art, set in a baroque palace.
Where to stay: Central apartment with balcony
Why visit Cluj-Napoca: Set in astonishing Transylvania, Cluj-Napoca is Romania's second largest city.
As expected, tourists usually congregate around the main town square, which is marked by St. Michael's Church. The National Museum of Art, showcasing Romanian pieces, and an art gallery in a former pencil factory, the Fabrica de Pensule, are two must-visit museums in the city.
Another very popular activity is to head to the nearby Apuseni Mountains for an excursion in nature.
Russia: Saint Petersburg
Population: 4.991 million
Best thing to do: Spend a day in the grandiose Peterhof palace.
Where to stay:Hotel Helvetia
Why visit St. Petersburg: Russia's imperial city is undeniably the grandest and most beautiful. Yes, this is the rare case where the second city is better than the capital. Sorry, Moscow!
There are so many things to do in St. Petersburg that you'll want to spend several days here. Start with the numerous palaces, including Peterhof and Catherine Palace. The former of these was built to rival Versailles, so you can imagine how grand it is.
Then, you can focus on the museums, with the State Hermitage Museum, which includes the beautiful Winter Palace and the State Russian Museum, where you can see some of Kandinsky's works.
Leave some time for the city's churches, especially the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, with its swirling gold and blue domes and intricate interior mosaics. Try to also go see the Russian ballet if you can.
San Marino: Montegiardino
Best thing to do: Try the local flatbread sandwich variety called piadina.
Where to stay: Moda' Antica Dimora
Why visit Montegiardino: The smallest "city" on this list is teeny tiny Montegiardino, located in teeny tiny San Marino.
Since the entire country is engulfed by Italy, you can expect the same beauty and good food as you would from Dante's own country. But don't go about comparing the locals to Italians. They are the world's longest-standing republic and very much proud of that.
Montegiardino is often referred to as the prettiest part of San Marino and is home to the country's only university. Students bring an upbeat and alternative vibe to the small town, which contrasts with the stone houses and traditional cafes you'll find on every street.
Best thing to do: Tour the Clydeside Distillery for an unforgettable whisky experience.
Where to stay:Sherbrooke Castle Hotel
Why visit Glasgow: One of Scotland's main cultural hubs, Glasgow is where you'll find Victorian, art nouveau and modern architecture cohabitating harmoniously. Perhaps because Glasgow doesn't take itself as seriously as Edinburgh does, the country's second city has a relaxed, cool vibe.
There's always an underground concert happening and the Glasgow Mural Trail is the informal center of street art. For those who want something a little more highbrow, there's also the Scottish Opera and the Scottish Ballet.
Serbia: Novi Sad
Best thing to do: Visit Petrovaradin Fortress, the city's most important landmark.
Where to stay: Sheraton Novi Sad
Why visit Novi Sad: With a hilltop Citadel dominating the landscape of the city, Novi Sad is undeniably pretty. You'll find many historical buildings, including the Bishop's Palace and the Novi Sad Synagogue.
But the best way to get to know the city is to get lost in its labyrinth of small streets. You'll find cool shops and small art galleries hidden away. If you visit during summer, you can spend time sunbathing at Strand beach on the banks of the Danube.
We also recommend checking out a list of cultural events for the days you'll visit, since Novi Sad is known for its numerous concerts and music festivals. The most popular festival is Exit, which takes place at Petrovaradin Fortress every July.
Best thing to do: Walk around the Gothic complex to see the city's most treasured national heritage sites.
Where to stay:Hotel Yasmin Kosice
Why visit Kosice: Slovakia's second largest city has all the makings of a typical European town, without the tourists and the high prices.
Landmarks are mostly congregated around the main square, where you'll find the Gothic complex with the city's two most important churches side by side. Nearby, you'll also find the State Theatre, adorned with singing fountains, and the East Slovak Museum. There's also an archaeological complex with the remains of a medieval fort.
St. Elizabeth’s Cathedral, together with next door Urban’s Tower and Michal’s Chapel, were proclaimed a national cultural heritage.
Best thing to do: Walk along the medieval walls of Piran and get views of the coast.
Where to stay:Hotel Piran
Why visit Piran: We don't understand how beautiful Slovenia is so often ignored by travelers. We especially don't understand how this happens to Piran. But fewer visitors mean more opportunities for you.
Once part of the Venetian Republic, Piran still boasts the gorgeous aesthetic of Venetian architecture. Its position on the Adriatic Coast only adds to its beauty, making it one of Europe's best small beach towns.
Tartini Square is where you'll find a congregation of cafes, restaurants and shops, though we also encourage you to walk around the twisting streets of the old town or to find a restaurant by the harbor.
Many of the best things to do in Piran are centered around finding different viewpoints through which you can appreciate the town's look. These include the Bell Tower, the Church of St. George and the Medieval Walls. Of course, feasting on fresh seafood is a must.
Population: 1.62 million
Best thing to do: Spend a morning in the whimsical, fantasy-like Parc Guell, designed by Antoni Gaudí.
Where to stay: H10 Casa Mimosa
Why visit Barcelona: Barcelona is not just Spain's best non-capital city. It is Spain's best overall city.
The claim may be controversial, but it's true. As much as we love Madrid, Barcelona is simply prettier, more unique, friendlier and cooler. We don't even need to tell you the food and the wine are superb, but we'd like to highlight the city's Gaudi architecture, the likes of which you won't find anywhere else in the world.
La Rambla neighborhood is a popular pedestrian street, albeit it is filled to the brim with tourists. In summer, the beaches are also a major draw, providing a way to cool off from the heat. We can't possibly list everything there is to do, but we'll highlight taking a cable car up to Montjuic, walking around the Gothic quarter and picnicking at Ciutadella Park.
Best thing to do: Seek an adrenaline rush at Liseberg, an eco-friendly amusement park.
Where to stay: Hotel Royal Gothenburg
Why visit Gothenburg: Gothenburg is the green city of the future with traditional buildings of the past. The home of Greta Thunberg, it's no surprise that this is considered one of Europe's most sustainable destinations. You'll find many expansive urban green spaces and parks, nearby forest walks and even a theme park powered by wind energy.
The city also has repurposed its industrial buildings into cool bars, restaurants and art galleries. Its many canals plus this modern vibe give it a bit of an Amsterdam feel. Except Gothenburg is not nearly as touristy and feels much more "authentic."
Best thing to do: Walk along the Limmatquai promenade to see the city's most impressive riverside scenery.
Where to stay: Hotel Schweizerhof Zurich
Why visit Zurich: Many people think Zurich is the capital of Switzerland (a geography fact people often get wrong). If this is you, we don't blame you. Zurich definitely has the stuff capitals are made of.
For one, it is a global commercial powerhouse, with many national and international companies having headquarters here. It's also home to numerous universities and has been ranked as the second-most livable city in the world. But unlike Geneva (which is, also, not the capital), Zurich maintains a small European town feel that makes it absolutely disarming. Simply put, it's impossible not to like the city.
Walk along the river for literally perfect views, visit the Swiss National Museum, see the city's medieval churches or take a train to nearby Uetliberg mountain for some almost unreal typical Swiss scenery.
Best thing to do: Spend an entire day at the Lviv National Gallery of Art, which holds more than 50,000 pieces.
Where to stay: Bankhotel
Why visit Lviv: Lviv was first established in the 13th century and has enjoyed an important historical significance to the region ever since. Today, it is one of Ukraine's cultural centers, with a strong theater and opera culture that guarantees great shows every season.
There are also many galleries and museums for those who love art and history. You'll find churches that differ from those found in much of the rest of the continent as well. These include the Armenian Cathedral of Lviv and the Greek Catholic St. George's Cathedral.
Cafe culture is strong here, so we recommend taking some time off from sightseeing to simply sit at a local cafe.