With epidemic attractions married with high energy urbanism, it’s no wonder that London, Paris, Rome, and Barcelona feature on most first time Euro travelers’ bucket lists. But for seasoned Europhiles or travelers with a few days to spare and get off the tourist map, there’s a magical sense of personal discovery that comes with getting under the skin of Europe’s less storied towns and cities. Europe’s hip, upstart cities offer authentic, enchanting cityscapes and the chance to mingle with locals — all without the hefty, megacity price tag, the stress of high expectations, and the depressing vision of tourists watching other tourists take pictures.
With the flexibility and economy that cheap airlines (Ryan Air, Norwegian, Transavia, Easy Jet, Wings — to name but a few) now yield, savvy travelers can hop around Europe within a couple hours, and all for less than the price of a tank of gas. Here’s our pick of European cities to visit now.
The Unesco World Heritage city of Bern is a sleeper hit if ever there was one. The unassuming Swiss capital (for some reason everyone thinks it’s Geneva) is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. The Old Town is an enchanting medieval gem with trickling fountains, glorious sandstone buildings, leafy parks, handsome town homes, a vibrant café society, and over three miles of arcades that offer fine shopping for every taste and tendency.
It’s no surprise that the man who would become the world’s most famous physicist found inspiration here. In 1905, a young Albert Einstein was making ends meet in Bern’s Patent Office when he experienced a eureka moment. During a ‘wonder year’ in Bern, Einstein developed his seminal Theory of Relativity. Bern may not have the dynamic edge that drives many great cities, but perhaps that’s because it doesn’t need to. Wealthy, proud, and a little bit smug, Bern’s charms are the quiet kind. It’s a conservative city, a place where excess is defined as a rich fondue, and a feisty cocktail often comes with a two per person limit. If you crave a faster pace, within just an hour of the city four ski resorts epitomize the joys of Swiss skiing. Adelboden, Grindelwald, Little Wengen, and Mürren boast epic ski runs, quaint pedestrianized streets, rickety railways, and stunning mountain views.