I’ve been to almost all European countries. What are the most Overrated and Underrated European Cities? Here’s my personal take.
I’ve been to almost all European countries. I have also been to a lot of European cities, more than just the capital city of a country. I have done extensive road trips all over Europe, often longer than 2 weeks and some longer than one month. Crazy, I know. I don’t necessarily recommend it.
I think it’s now safe to say that I am a traveller. There are other people out there who have travelled far more than I have. For sure. But there are many more who have not seen so many places. The reasons are not important. But what’s important to me is that most people live a much more balanced life than I do.
And most people only get a few weeks per year as free time when they don’t have to go to work. Many choose that time to travel, go on holiday, or explore a new place. I’m hoping this is you because I am so fed up with seeing marketing campaigns and tourism agencies pushing the same European destinations over and over again.
Have you ever heard of the “Paris syndrome”? Long story short, it’s when you travel to a new place which you’ve been fantasising about your whole life, and once you get there, you can only say “Meh”.
So I want to spare you the time, effort, and especially money to go to a place and only say, “Meh.” Europe is not as cheap as it once was, but some places are still worth it. And some European cities are definitely overrated.
A backstory for myself
Before I start throwing random city names at you, I want to clarify a few aspects about me personally. I think it’s important that you know who wrote and recommended these places before you make a decision.
First of all, a long time ago I wrote my theory about my favourite place. It is a question I get a lot, especially since I have travelled so much. And people want to know. But the thing is that there is no favourite place in general, as it is in general with a, let’s say, pair of jeans. What’s perfect for me will not be perfect, or maybe not even desirable for you.
Secondly, I am from Romania. I am used to rules being followed sporadically. And I personally hate that. I have strong moral values about who should do what and strongly believe that if we all do our part, society thrives.
And finally, and the most important thing, is that I have seen most of Europe. Not because I love it all, but because I can now say what place is underrated and what are the overrated cities of Europe.
The most overrated European cities
Ok, enough prep talk. Let’s get into this. You will mostly not agree, but this is MY PERSONAL list of the most overrated European cities. As a European, I give myself the right to say this on the internet.
Yes, Paris is overrated.
I know that Paris is probably the number one spot in Europe for everyone who has not visited Europe yet. It is a top destination for many Europeans as well.
But, in my humble opinion, it’s so overrated I would stand at the airport and beg people to go someplace else.
I have visited Paris some time ago, for about a week. I also want to go back and visit some museums in Paris. But other than the museums, it’s a burden. And it’s come to a moment in life, where I’m afraid that if I speak my mind and let this out, people will come and hunt me. That’s how big this Paris travel thing is.
But I will give you my opinion anyway. I think Paris is too crowded (mostly with tourists), the Eiffel Tower is “Meh,” most streets are dirty, food is expensive and not great at all. Locals seem to dislike anyone who doesn’t try to speak French. Needless to say, I would NOT go to certain parts of Paris for anything in the world. It’s just not recommended. The list can go on and on. But I have a fear of the internet, so I will stop here.
Also, as a tip, if you think you like French cuisine, come try Romanian cuisine. It’s basically the same, at a quarter of the price. Sure, we don’t have snails over here, but I’m sure we can find a fancy restaurant for you in Bucharest.
The hype I see online about Portugal, in general, is crazy.
So you can understand I had super high expectations when I decided to spend one month in Portugal. Luckily, I decided to stay in the Algarve region, which is indeed a dream. Not perfect either, but it’s better off-season.
But after my ocean month, I visited Lisbon for 3 days. It was crowded, more expensive than the top Scandinavian cities, and overall too dirty for my taste. It was a nightmare to get anywhere because it was crowded with tourists even in March (thanks to the good weather).
Most restaurants were also overpriced, drug dealers at every corner (literally), and too many vibes of a party town gave a slight sense of unease, although I was not alone.
Are there good parts about Lisbon? For sure. Would I avoid it altogether for the rest of my life? Probably not, since Lisbon has daily flights to Madeira, which I absolutely loved.
I don’t get it. Truly, I don’t.
Yes, Italy is gorgeous. But we all have to admit, if we were to compare Italian cities, that some are more gorgeous than others.
For some reason, Milan has become an international travel hub, with big and small airports, and a lot of connecting flights in Europe stop there.
The Duomo is nice. The Galerry is nice. Food is on, it’s Italy. Gelato is everywhere. Is that all you need? WILL you go across the world just to visit a mediocre Italian city? WHY?
I’ve been to Milan, and especially its airports, more times than I can count. I have never found this city interesting after my first solo visit in 2016.
The most underrated European cities
I will probably add more to the list of overrated places in Europe, but it’s getting late now, and I want to finish the post and talk a bit about the underrated European cities. Now, this is what will shock you. I promise to only add to the list of big cities.
I’ve heard many say Stockholm is boring. So, I didn’t have many expectations before visiting and staying in Stockholm for a month in July 2022.
I didn’t make any plans to visit places. I was convinced that breathing in Stockholm would instantly close my bank account. “Why did you go?” you might ask. Because I am extremely curious by nature, and I can’t help myself. I need to know how life looks on the other side.
But I was fully aware of my financial limitations and I was planning on just swimming for free in the Baltic Sea, in a remote corner of one of the islands on the Stockholm archipelago.
And guess what? State museums are free in Stockholm.
Food is moderately priced but always of the best quality.
And the city is, quite honestly, extremely livable. I am not saying we should all move there. In fact, Sweden is known as the “China of Europe”. It’s truly a socialist country. You need a Swedish personal number for anything, even going to the gym, and locals are rather unfriendly.
But Stockholm is the perfect place to be yourself, explore, admire, walk, take a boat home, and rely on public transport and services. It’s one of the best destinations in Europe that will deliver the most for your buck if you’d like.
Gorgeous city. I would spend hours walking around, admiring the Art Nouveau, and nobody would bother me. Locals are extremely friendly. Prices are affordable.
The city is not a huge and has the right size to go for longer walks. THe blend of old and new is done in a way which doesn’t seem to annoy you in any way.
I see Riga as a perfect blend between Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. It can also be a gateway for Scandinavia, given it’s popular port.
I visited Riga twice, once during my extra long 2019 Baltic road trip (which I started in Bucharest, drove all the way to Tallinn, and then back). And the second time was in 2022, as I was driving back to Romania from my 3 month trip in Scandinavia. I told you I go on crazy long European road trips (we all have hobbies in life).
I am seriously thinking about going back for at least a month.
This might be a controversial choice, but I had Lviv in mind even before the war with Russia.
I visited Ukraine twice. I loved it so much the first time (I fell in love with Odessa), and I wanted to see more of it. On my second visit, I visited Lviv for a week.
And I wanted to visit it a third time to create a tradition (that’s how much I liked it), but then 2020 happened.
Lviv is a charming place, and it offers something to all travellers – history, tradition, landscapes, and nightlife. It’s all there. I fell in love with its charming mix of ex-communist style and hipster venues. Bars, restaurants, city tours – all wonderful. I even rented a car and drove a bit outside the city to explore the castles around Lviv. I had a bit of an issue with the car rental company, but I’m over it now.
You will never get bored in Ukraine.
Locals are extremely friendly, most young adults speak perfect English, and all Ukrains try their best to make foreigners feel great. This is not something you experience a lot when travelling. The food is yummy, the city is gorgeous, there’s so much to see, and you will not get bored. Honestly, I would gladly spend a month in Lviv too. And I cannot wait for the war to be finally over so I can visit Lviv and more of Ukraine.
Now, what’s your top for the underrated cities in Europe?
I will add more cities to the list, but I need to think a bit more about it. For now, I want to know if there’s something we can add to the list of underrated cities.
As a travel blogger focusing on European destinations, I want to create enough resources and educate tourists about more off-the-beaten-path travel destinations.
I believe that more cities deserve a visit; there’s so much more to see than a metal structure.
In the end, travelling is so much about what we see and what we expose ourselves to. It provides the kind of education you can’t get anywhere else. Why waste this chance and go to the same spots as everyone else and have the same shots as everyone else?
In a world that’s specifically created to make us spend, why now use that time and money to elevate yourself by turning your next travel experience into a real adventure? If there’s one thing I recommend everyone should do as soon as they’re an adult, it is to travel solo. Go see the world, go far and look closely. I’m sure you’ll learn a thing or two.