It’s no surprise that Europe hosts some of the world’s most exciting cities to visit, whether walking the streets of Paris or taking pictures of the Colosseum in Rome. However, many cities with equal charm get lost or unnoticed in all this excitement, so we’ve put together this list. Keep reading to learn about some of Europe’s more underrated cities you might want to add to your upcoming summer itineraries!
Ghent, located in Belgium, is a captivating city that offers a delightful blend of history, culture, and architectural wonders. Yet, it only sometimes appears on the travel list of our typical European visitors. It is often overshadowed by its more famous counterparts, Brussels and Bruges.
Ghents’ remarkably well-preserved medieval architecture offers picturesque streets and Instagram-worthy pictures around every corner. The iconic Saint Bavo’s Cathedral‘s spires and the breathtaking interior are must-see attraction.
Numerous museums, art galleries, and theatres call this city home while showcasing the great works of artists like Van Eyck and Rubens. For our romantic readers, Ghent’s idyllic canals and waterways provide the perfect date options to admire the city’s beauty from a new perspective.
Riga, the capital of Latvia, boasts that dark academia aesthetic we see across the Pinterest boards of many. With Gothic and Art Nouveau buildings at every corner and impressive spires adorning the skyline, it’s no wonder architecture enthusiasts drool over this city’s beauty.
Between perusing the Latvian National Museum of Art or the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, make sure to stop by The Central Market, located within a series of massive zeppelin hangars. It is a booming hub for visitors and locals to indulge in authentic dishes, fresh produce, and shopping for unique souvenirs.
For beachgoing, the Gulf of Riga is close to the city center and offers private beaches that are safe to swim and bask in the sun. If you’re in search of tranquillity and a connection with nature, add Riga to your list growing list of destinations to visit!
Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, has been growing in popularity for digital nomads everywhere but gets less credit than the country’s more coastal cities. Zagreb’s historical charm is a significant draw with narrow streets, large open squares, and iconic landmarks such as St. Mark’s Church, the Cathedral of Zagreb, and the historic Stone Gate.
In recent years, Zagreb has become an attractive destination for digital nomads looking for a lively and affordable city. I speak from experience when I say this city has got it all! Shameless plug, but Quahwa Cafe is a personal favourite spot for fast wifi and tear-worthy coffee. For any foodies reading, štrukli (cheese-filled pastry) continues to haunt my dreams as I await the next time I can indulge.
You can easily find yourself wandering through local parks and green spaces, which provide a refreshing escape from urban life. Plitvice Lakes is only a few hours from the city, and although teeming with tourists in the summer, it remains a worthy site to see.
Wroclaw, located in western Poland, is home to the country’s 3rd largest square, Rynek. It’s lined with places to eat, drink, and explore. Wroclaw’s Gothic-style Cathedral and Tumski Bridge are must-see attractions for architecture buffs.
Many students call this city home, studying out of the University of Wroclaw, founded in 1702. Therefore, the city is lively at night, with busy bars, clubs, and restaurants. The city annually hosts festivals, concerts, and events, from classical performances to contemporary exhibitions, ensuring something exciting is always happening!
For a more leisurely activity, consider taking a stroll along the Odra River or exploring the nearby islands to appreciate this city’s natural beauty. Nonetheless, take advantage of the beauty of Wroclaw, and start planning your next trip!
Paris isn’t France’s only must-see destination, but the city of Lyon, nestled in the heart of France, is a place worth checking out. The culinary scene is perhaps the most notable draw for tourists looking to treat their palates by eating at one of the many Michelin-starred restaurants that call this city home. Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, an indoor food market, is the perfect place to indulge in local French flavours.
The city’s UNESCO-listed Old Town, Vieux Lyon, presents a maze of narrow streets, medieval buildings, and tucked-away courtyards- lending visitors’ hours of exploration on the city’s cobbled paths. Lyon’s annual Festival of Lights is another major attraction, where the city becomes engulfed in light installations and artistic street performances. Lyon is not a city to pass up on your next trip to France.
Perugia, a city in Italy’s Umbria region, is renowned for its festivals, like the annual Umbria Jazz Festival, which draws musicians worldwide. If that’s not your thing, consider attending the Eurochocolate Festival, celebrating all things chocolate.
In addition to the many festivals, the city’s art scene is no laughing matter, having an extensive collection of Italian masterpieces which will make any art fanatic swoon when visiting Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria.
Moreover, Perugia’s gastronomic offerings are not to go unnoticed, as truffles, cured meats, and traditional Umbrian dishes are readily available. Just swing by a local trattoria to enjoy some local dishes and wines. Perugia lives up to its reputation as an exciting and beautiful place worth visiting.
Gatwick airport opens new £250m train station
A new look Gatwick Airport station has opened promising to offer passengers travelling between Brighton and London faster and more reliable journeys.
A bigger £250m rail station with a new second concourse and airport entrance is now available, doubling the space for the millions of passengers that use the station each year.
The first passengers to use the new concourse and airport entrance arrived on the 05.48 Thameslink Bedford to Brighton service on platform 7.
Eight new escalators and five new lifts will provide a step change for accessibility at the airport’s South Terminal. The new lifts and escalators, along with four new stairways and widened platforms, will help passengers move between the train station and the airport more quickly and easily.
Easier journeys between train and plane will benefit passengers across the wider network, helping keep trains running on time by removing the congestion on platforms that delay trains.
“This project is not just for those making their way to the airport, the work benefits passengers right across the route by giving them quicker journeys and a more reliable timetable”, says Lucy McAuliffe, Network Rail Sussex route director.
Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, said: “With millions of people travelling into Gatwick Airport by train each year, this station is a major public transport hub and has been upgraded thanks to Government funding, improving the train-to-plane journey and delivering more reliable services for passengers.
“Today’s opening demonstrates this Government’s commitment to funding improvements to our rail network, transforming a vital station into an impressive gateway to the UK and helping more British and international passengers to travel by train.”
The new concourse will now act as the new entrance for people accessing the airport terminal, while the existing concourse will be for people exiting. The existing station concourse, station footbridges and the South Terminal linkspan have been refurbished and reconfigured to provide a seamless one-way system to the airport from the train station.
Travelers are spending more on ‘affordable luxury’, study says
A new research from World Travel Market London 2023, has revealed that “affordable luxury” is becoming more popular – despite the squeeze on many holidaymakers’ budgets.
The exclusive WTM Global Travel Report – compiled in association with researchers at Oxford Economics – has revealed that consumers generally remain determined to go on holiday and plenty are still prioritising upmarket options.
The report, unveiled on 6 November during the travel and tourism event taking place in London, says “affordable luxury” is becoming more popular “amid promising sentiment overall”.
It explains that this growth area in travel aligns with a broader trend for consumers to seek out new and unique experiences on holiday.
“After the pandemic and restrictions on travel, many have wanted to upgrade their experience…as consumers proactively catch up on missed tourism experiences,” says the report.
The report notes: “Consumers unaffected by economic downturns are likely to continue opting for luxury destinations.
The report cites United States consumer data from MMGY which suggests that the cost of living is having more of an effect on households with annual incomes under $50,000.
However, those earning more indicated a “high likelihood” of future travel.
Nonetheless, the report warns that some of the post-pandemic drivers of travel demand may have “gone into reverse in recent months”, posing a risk to continued expansion.
It points to persistently high costs and the recovery of sterling and the euro, which is making the purchasing power of the US dollar weaker in Europe.
The price of jet fuel is significantly higher than at the start of the year, putting pressure on air fares.
Consumers’ personal disposable income is also under pressure as their own transport and other living costs rise.
Despite these headwinds, the report notes: “Higher costs have not yet been a significant deterrent to growth and travellers appear willing to pay higher prices.”
“We are witnessing a remarkable resilience as people are still prioritising travel and many are seeking ‘affordable luxury’, such as higher rated accommodation or premium economy and business cabins instead of economy”, says Juliette Losardo, Exhibition Director at WTM London.
Meanwhile, the travel industry continues to face supply side problems, amid geopolitical events such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and staff shortages still affect many markets because large numbers of workers switched to other sectors during the pandemic.
London is the most searched-for destination for flights in 2023
Travel subscription platform eDreams, one of Europe’s largest e-commerce businesses, launched its ‘Year in Travel’ report today. The study, which analyses searches and booking data from its customers in all key European markets and the USA, reveals the evolution of travel, including top destinations, booking habits and growth destinations.
London came third as the most popular booked destination globally, behind Paris in 1st place and Barcelona in 2nd. However, the British capital pipped Paris to the post as the most popular destination for flight searches from all markets globally during 2023 – followed by Paris, New York City, Bangkok and Barcelona.
London was the 2nd most popular booked destination for Germans, the 3rd most popular booked destination for Portuguese and 6th on the list for departures from Spain. For in-coming arrival by air to the UK during 2023, the largest percentage were from Spain (19%), followed by Germany (12%) and Italy (11%). French arrivals made up 10%.
British travellers instead had their sights on Dublin as the most popular booked destination and all top destinations were short-haul, reflecting the overall picture of the distance Brits travelled during 2023: 76% continental, 15% intercontinental and 9% domestic.
“Our research shows that travel continues to be a very important part of people’s lives. When we look at the global travel map for 2023, traditional hotspots like Paris, Barcelona and London remain firm favourites. But, we have also seen long-haul destinations like Bangkok, Las Vegas, and New York grow in popularity this year. That’s really exciting as it shows how travellers are embracing the plethora of choice, information and inspiration available to them thanks to new technologies like AI and increasingly influential social media platforms like Tik Tok”, says Dana Dunne, CEO of eDreams ODIGEO.
As 2024 is packed with major international sporting events – including the Olympics, the Paralympics, Grand Prix, the Euros and the T20 cricket, eDreams’ data shows where interest is already heating up. Global searches for travel to Paris during the Olympics in 2024 vs the same dates in 2023 are up by +41%. 2024 will be the 20th anniversary of Bahrain’s Grand Prix and global travel searches for the weekend of 2 March are up +183% compared to last year.
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