Europe has so many well-known spots. Paris, Rome, London, Amsterdam, Venice, Florence, Barcelona…I could go on and on. All of those are places I’ve been and they’re all popular with tourists from across the world for good reason. They’re all famous in different ways and draw tourists for different reasons.

But, Europe is also home to plenty of less well-known destinations that are just as good. I’m lucky enough to have discovered quite a few of them

Bologna 

lesser-known places in europe
Italy has so many incredible, big-name cities like Rome, Florence and Venice that it can be easy for others to be overlooked.

Bologna is so beautiful though, and history seems to seep from every pore of the city. The historic centre has arched collonades, medieval and Renaissance structures and architecture and dozens of medieval towers. It also has cafes that spill out onto the streets and piazzas that fill with music and people, especially at the weekend. The city has an immense energy, partly thanks to the large population of young university students there. 

Bologna is also home to some of the best food I’ve ever tasted in Italy. The city’s nickname is actually la grassa which means ‘the fat one’ and if that doesn’t guarantee good food, I don’t know what does. 

Read more about how I was bewitched by Bologna here

Nantes

I visited Nantes back in 2011 and haven’t been able to get the city out of my head since. It’s located in the north west of France, a couple of hours from Paris.

I didn’t know much about Nantes before I visited and I was totally charmed by the city. The architecture is beautiful, the food is incredible (like, seriously incredible) and it feels so cosmopolitan and chic. A visit to Chateau des ducs de Bretagne and Nantes Cathedral are a must, as is taking in the Machines of the Isle of Nantes. An old shipyard has been transformed into the home of ‘a bestiary of machines’. There’s a giant mechanical elephant that takes 49 passengers on a walk of the city, a giant heron and much more. It has to be seen to be believed!
lesser-known places in europe

Nantes also happens to sit on the banks of the Loire and is a region where most of my favourite wine comes from. Cheers!

Santa Margherita, Italy  

Most visitors to this part of northern Italy flock to nearby Portofino or the Cinque Terre and skip Santa Margherita completely. Having visited this part of Italy several times, Santa Margherita is definitely my favourite.
lesser-known places in europe

It’s laidback and much quieter and more peaceful than Portofino and the towns of the Cinque Terre. The colourful buildings are unbelievably pretty and it feels like a proper holiday town. It’s also mostly full of Italians on holiday, so feels more authentic than the tourist traps.

Whilst there isn’t too much to do in Santa Margherita itself (unless you love lounging on the beach or by the pool), it’s the ideal base for discovering the region. 

Glasgow 

lesser known places to visit in Europe
You didn’t think I was going to make a list of overlooked tourist destinations in Europe and not include Glasgow on it, did you? My favourite Scottish city is always overshadowed by its classically prettier neighbour, Edinburgh. Most tourists to Scotland will only visit Edinburgh during a visit to the country and to miss Glasgow out is to do it a major disservice.

Glasgow might not have quite as much charm and jaw-dropping beauty as Edinburgh, but it has so much to offer. It’s gritty, real and incredibly friendly. There is stunning architecture (don’t forget to look up!), amazing museums, great restaurants, lively nightlife and pretty much everything you could want from a city.

What lesser known places in Europe do you love? Have you visited any of these?