12 not-so-obvious European cities to visit

This article is the third in a week-long series about traveling. Again, the focus is on Europe, but please feel free to submit your own non-European cities of choice.

Not everyone has the chance to ever visit a European city, much less several of them. So most people choose to visit the classics — Paris, London, Rome, Amsterdam, Barcelona. And they’re classics for a reason. But there are other cities out there that are just as deserving of your attention.

This list is a combination of cities that I’ve visited, and some that I wish to visit at some point.

1. Edinburgh. There’s Old Edinburgh and New Edinburgh; New Edinburgh is still like 600 years old. There’s imposing Edinburgh castle on one end of the Royal Mile, and Holyrood palace on the other, with all kinds of shops, restaurants and pubs in between.

Edinburgh castle

2. Nice. It’s not as expensive as its Riviera neighbor, Monte Carlo, and not as glitzy, but Old Nice is pretty cool. Go get some rose or violet ice cream at Fenocchio. Wander through the winding pathways and grab a sandwich or a snack at an olive bar. The beach (covered with smooth rocks, not sand) is also gorgeous at sunset.

3. Lisbon. It’s easy to forget about Portugal, which is just … sitting … there. Lisbon’s Baixo district has a ton of places to eat and drink, St. George’s castle and St. Jerome’s monastery are great historical sites and the seafood is amazing. I recommend the swordfish.

4. Munich. This place just felt more … German, especially compared with Berlin’s more modern feel. The Marienplatz, the Frauenkirche and the Englischer Garten are all fun places to visit. I also recommend Augustiner’s, a brewery/restaurant with the most delicious weisswurst.

5. Salzburg. Vienna is the prototypical Austrian city, but I enjoyed Salzburg more. You can hike up to Hohensalzburg fortress, enjoy the annual Mozart festival and hit Zum Fidelen Affen for black pudding, wienerschnitzel and amazing Austrian custard balls.

6. Florence. Other than London, Florence is my favorite city in Europe (so far). The art is overwhelming, you can have lunch at a sidewalk cafe right next to the Duomo and the weather is gorgeous. Florence also has the distinction of being the site of my favorite meal ever — a (shared, thank you) bottle of white wine, bruschetta, ravioli in a cream sauce, roasted lamb, roasted house potatoes, chocolate-topped custard and a shot of limoncello.

The Duomo, Florence

And now for six cities that are on my list:

1. Stockholm. This is arguably the hottest city in Europe now, thanks to the Millennium Trilogy.

2. Prague. It’s inexpensive, the architecture is amazing and, as of 2004, the Czech Republic has the highest amount of beer consumption, per capita, in the world — ahead of Germany, the UK and Ireland.

3. Copenhagen. I once read that you could cast a Pepsi commercial by plucking ordinary Danes off the street. Says it all, I think. It’s a perfect combination of continental Europe and Scandinavia.

4. Athens. Greece could really use the tourist dollars, and I really want to see the Acropolis before the Parthenon dissolves from pollution.

5. Milan. It has one of the most beautiful churches in Europe, it’s home to “The Last Supper” by Da Vinci and it’s a major European fashion capital.

6. Belfast. I have not yet been to Northern Ireland; it’s the last country of the United Kingdom I’ve yet to see. I want to go as much to muse on The Troubles as I do to see the city itself and the view of Belfast Lough.

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