12x underrated European City Breaks that should be on your radar

05 June 2023

In collaboration with Hostelling International, we've gathered for you the very best cities for a city trip in Europe. Sometimes a bit underrated, unknown or not yet very popular.

And that's exactly what makes these cities so much fun! From soaking up culture in Rijeka, to eating cinnamon rolls in Talinn, to paragliding in Swiss Interlaken; these 12 European city trips should definitely not be missing from your list. Of course, you can spend the night cheaply at one of Hostelling International's many hostels.

1. 🇳🇱 Maastricht

Stayokay Maastricht, hostel in the Netherlands

As far as we're concerned, this might just be the most beautiful city in the Netherlands. Located in the southern­most tip of the Netherlands in the province of Limburg, you'll find this beautiful city. Located on the river Maas (from which the city of course gets its name), there's always something fun to see and do. Even Dutchies feel like they're abroad for a moment. The Burgundian character with all the delicious restaurants, the many heated terraces where you can sit in all weathers, the alleys filled with the most beautiful old buildings, in Maastricht you'll feast your eyes!

Highlights not to be missed in Maastricht include the Dominican Church, where you can find the most beautiful bookshop in the world. The most delicious "vlaai" (filled pastry) is at the Bisschops­molen, the oldest working water mill in the country, with its attached bakery. The tastiest special beers are on the Vrijthof square. Or visit the smallest and perhaps cosiest café in the Netherlands, Petit Café Moriaan. Maastricht really is a city of extremes in the very best way. This city trip is suitable for a romantic getaway or a weekend of full enjoyment with friends. Read more great tips about Maastricht in our blog.

🛏️ You reach the city by train or car and spend the night at Stayokay Maastricht.

2. 🇫🇷 Strasbourg

Strasbourg, France

When you think of France, you might think of the city of love, Paris. Or delicious clichés, like having a croissant and coffee on a French terrace, scenes à la Netflix series Emily in Paris or perhaps the annual camping holiday with your family. All great pictures of course, but have you ever thought about Strasbourg while planning a city break in Europe? Strasbourg is the European capital and also the capital of Alsace. This vibrant city is young and hip and offers super-ordinary architectural heritage, a fairytale old town (also great at Christmas!) and special museums.

Highlights not to be missed in this wonderful city include the La Petit France district, the historic city centre Grande Île and Notre Dame Cathedral. Strasbourg is located on the Rhine and on the border with Germany. Thanks to this location, you can see many influences from both countries in the architectural styles. You can get here within an hour by plane from the Netherlands, but even better is to take the train. This takes 6.5 hours and you'll make a nice stopover in Paris. By car, the city is just a 6-hour drive from Utrecht.

🛏️ Spend the night at Auberge de Jeunesse HI Stasbourg 2 rives.

3. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Canterbury

Canterbury, England

This medieval city in the south-east of England is one of the most unique and atmospheric cities to visit in Europe. Canterbury is known for the Canterbury Tales but the city also became a place of pilgrimage because of the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170. Located in County Kent, this is a small but very pleasant student city. Its medieval centre with its cosy streets and historic buildings creates a very nice atmosphere. You'll find many bars, cafés and clubs, making it a great destination for backpackers, couples and friends.

Canterbury's 1400-year-old cathedral is the city's biggest pride. Hidden among the houses, you reach it via the Old Buttermarket; a real must-see! Not only is the city beautiful, there are also numerous highlights to visit in the surrounding area. For instance, you can visit the real British countryside and the 14-km-long coastline. Located on the River Stour, the city is easy to combine with a visit to London. In the historic city centre you'll find the best boutiques, delicious 'tea rooms' for scrumptious fresh scones and real British beer brewers. You can reach the city sustainably by train or boat.

🛏️ Stay overnight at YHA Canterbury.

4. 🇩🇪 Hamburg

Hamburg, Germany

Germany's second-largest city will not bore you for a moment. The city is located on the Elbe and is still relatively unknown. A shame, because Hamburg has it all! Hamburg is secretly at least as much fun as Berlin, and we're going to tell you why. Hamburg is a veritable walhalla for street-art fanatics. In St Pauli and Karolinen­viertel you'll find the most beautiful works of art. For real bon vivants and party animals, this is the place to be.

Thanks to the Alster and Elbe rivers, you always have stunning views on your doorstep. Thus, rooftop bars are located along the waterfront. In the city, you'll find historical architecture in places like Altona, St Pauli and Eppendorf, but also beautiful modern architecture like in the Hafencity district. Also pay a visit to the Elbphilharmonie. This concert hall has existed since 2017 and is so beautiful that you have to visit it during your city break. Fifteen minutes from the city is Niendorfer Gehege, a beautiful nature reserve where you've absolutely no idea you are near a metropolis thanks to the deer and the woods for wandering. You can easily reach the city by car or train.

🛏️ Spend the night at Hamburg auf dem Stintang.

5. 🇸🇮 Ljubljana

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Walking around this city feels like being in a Disney fairy tale. The city feels like a secret discovered, and is not yet among the list of world cities. Perhaps this is what makes Ljubljana so much fun, or perhaps the fact that it's so small you can walk everywhere. There's a hip but very relaxed atmosphere, where you can hear the water gently lapping the streets, the birds singing and you can marvel at the picturesque architecture.

In fact, most of the city was designed by Jože Plečnik, who took the city in hand starting in 1920. He designed the central market, for instance, with romantic Venetian Renaissance influences. This market has open and closed sections, and is right on the river. Here lies the Ljubljanica river, with many cosy pavement cafés. Here you can taste a nice Slovenian wine, such as Zelen or Pinela. You can go supping on the river, take the cable car to Ljubljanski Grad, the city's castle, for the best views. There's also an insane amount of street art in the city and you can go on a scavenger hunt for dragons, the city's symbol. This city trip is ideal for families or a romantic getaway with your partner. You can reach the city by car or by direct flight from the Netherlands.

🛏️ Stay overnight at Ljubljana Youth Hostel Tresor.

6. 🇨🇿 Český Krumlov

Český Krumlov, Czechia

After Prague, this is the most visited city in the Czechia. The fairytale-like, historic town of Český Krumlov is one of the most beautiful Renaissance towns in Europe. Its medieval core is a UNESCO world heritage site. The town is surrounded by the winding River Vltava, making it an ideal destination for nature and water sports enthusiasts. Once, the river was an important trade route. Now, the river is used for canoe trips, or you can take a trip down the river on a candlelit wooden raft at dusk. You can take beautiful walks through the Bohemian Forest National Park and at Lipno Lake. Wherever in the city you are, you can always hear the peaceful babbling of the river. After all the exertion, you can visit the 400-year-old brewery to sample a Krumlov beer. The castle is the city's showpiece and also not to be missed, as it towers over the entire city. We think this city trip is best done with your partner, friends or alone.

🛏️ Stay overnight at Český Krumlov Travellers Hostel.

7. 🇨🇭 Interlaken

Interlaken, Switzerland

Interlaken is one of those cities you could dream about. With beautiful clear blue lakes, a cute centre with a lovely vibe, surrounded by the beautiful Alps. Yet this really does exist, because Interlaken has it all. The city is located between the two beautiful blue lakes Brienzersee and Thunersee and is surrounded by the Bernese Alps. So its location is truly fairytale-like.

You can swim in the lakes (though cold, so maybe practice the Wim Hof method at home). You can hike on the mountain passes, or visit the 72(!) waterfalls. If you're super adventurous or want to get out of your comfort zone, you can go sky­diving, canyoning, snow­boarding, hang gliding, diving and climbing, among others. Hike to the top of Augstmatthor or visit Oeschinensee, Switzerland's most beautiful mountain lake. So you hear, this city really is the destination for sports­men and adventurers. Get there by train, car or plane.

🛏️ Stay overnight at Interlaken Youth Hostel.

8. 🇭🇷 Rijeka

Rijeka, Croatia

Croatia's third-largest city, situated by the port and coast, is definitely worth a visit. This destination is ideal if you like a combination of culture, city and beach. Rijeka was the cultural capital of 2020, so a lot of money was invested in the city at that time. Consequently, you're in the right place if you're looking for culture.

The covered market halls are a must to visit; here you can find endless amounts of delicious sardines and other fish. Not only at this market, but also at the city's restaurants you'll find the tastiest fresh fish. No wonder, of course, given the city's location. Stroll through Korzo, the city's promenade. There are several beaches nearby, such as Ploce, Villa Nora and Glavanovo, but even more fun is to spend a day visiting the island of Krk, which can be reached by bridge. Enjoy the very best views of the town and bay with a drink at the Trsat castle café. The best way to reach the city is by car.

🛏️ Stay overnight at HI Hostel Rijeka.

9. 🇵🇹 Evora

Evora, Portugal

Evora, a charming city in the heart of Portugal, is the perfect destination for a city trip. With its rich history, picturesque streets and cultural treasures, Evora offers a unique experience for travellers looking for an authentic Portuguese atmosphere. The ancient city walls will take you back to the time of the Romans.

A walk through the cobbled streets will reveal beautiful squares, historic buildings and atmospheric cafés where you can enjoy a cup of delicious local coffee. One of the highlights of visiting Evora is the famous Evora Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Inside, enjoy beautiful works of art and breathtaking views of the city from the tower. Also visit the Roman temple, the Templo de Diana, which dates back to the 1st century CE. This historic temple is a must-see and will teach you a lot about the city's past.

The city's a wonderful destination for the foodies among us. Taste the delicious Alentejo wines, enjoy traditional dishes like bacalhau and enjoy the cosy atmosphere in the local taverns until the late hours. Evora is a city that will enchant you with its rich history, cultural treasures and authentic atmosphere. Whether you're interested in history, architecture, gastronomy or just want to wander its charming streets, Evora will certainly not disappoint.

🛏️ Stay overnight at HI Évora.

10. 🇱🇺 Luxembourg City

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

While Luxembourg may be small in size, it more than makes up for this with its charm and unforgettable sights. On arrival in Luxembourg City, you'll be immediately greeted by Luxembourg's impressive fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This impressive fortress towers high above the city and offers stunning views over the valleys and the River Alzette. Get lost in the narrow, quaint alleys of the historic Grund district and discover hidden gems such as the casemates; underground defences that amaze even the most seasoned explorer. But be careful, you can easily get lost in this maze of streets!

Also pay a visit to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame. Step inside and admire the beautiful stained-glass windows. Another unmissable attraction is the Adolfs Bridge, an iconic bridge connecting the old town with the modern part of Luxembourg City. Walk across the bridge and enjoy the breathtaking views of the valley and surrounding landscapes. For art lovers, there's the Mudam, a modern art museum. The rich history, beautiful views, easy accessibility and multicultural atmosphere make Luxembourg City an ideal city break destination for history buffs and adventurous travellers.

🛏️ Stay overnight at Luxembourg City Hostel.

11. 🇪🇪 Talinn

Talinn, Estonia

Talinn is the capital of Estonia, a small but beautiful country. Tallinn's historic centre is like an enchanting fairytale and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the cobbled streets, admire the medieval architecture and climb the city walls for stunning views. The charming squares with cosy terraces offer the perfect place to relax and enjoy a delicious Estonian beer. Visit Toompea, the upper district of the old town. Here you'll find Toompea Castle, now the seat of the Estonian parliament, and admire the beautiful Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

What makes it even more fun is the fine, local atmosphere. Estonians are friendly and relaxed. They have a unique culture with traditional dances and vocal art. And let's not forget the food! Estonian cuisine combines Scandinavian and Russian influences. Try local delicacies like black bread soup and smoked fish.If you have a sweet tooth, you should definitely try a piece of cinnamon bread. Tallinn also has great bars and clubs where you can dance the night away and enjoy delicious cocktails. Best of all, it's all affordable too! The easiest way to reach the city is by plane.

12. 🇪🇸 Girona

Girona, Spain

This city in northeast Spain is a hidden gem you don't want to miss. The old city centre is like a maze of narrow streets and colourful buildings. It feels like travelling back in time! And Game of Thrones fans take note, as Girona served as one of the filming locations for the series. Girona's Cathedral is an absolute must-see. The view from the top is breathtaking! Don't forget to take a walk across the iconic bridge, the Pont de les Peixateries Velles and enjoy the beautiful view of the river Onyar. You can also walk on the city walls. Last but not least, Girona is known for its fantastic culinary scene. You can feast on delicious tapas and traditional Catalan dishes in one of the many cosy restaurants and bars. If you still have some space left after all the tapas, visit the Mercat del Lleó market to can taste all the local products.

🛏️ Spend the night cheaply at Girona Xanascat Hostel.

Affordable city breaks

Did you know that a Stayokay membership also entitles you to discounts at Hostelling International hostels worldwide?


10% discounts at home and abroad

A Stayokay Card is a great deal if you're planning to visit Stayokay hostels in the Netherlands or HI hostels abroad. You'll receive a 10% discount on your overnight stay and at our bar. Living in the Netherlands? You can buy a Stayokay membership here (in Dutch). Living outside the Netherlands? Then buy your card in your own country by contacting your local Youth Hostel Association or buy directly from Hostelling International.