City Vacations

13 Underrated European Cities for a Family Vacation

Last updated 11th October 2019

Sure, you’ve been to Paris, London, and Rome. But how about these totally amazing but lesser known locations?

Europe is the gift that keeps on giving—with so many vibrant, culturally rich places to visit you really can’t go wrong when choosing a destination. While it might be tempting to eat crepes in Paris for the 20th time (and hey—we wouldn’t judge), why not try one of these totally awesome, family-friendly, under-the-radar spots instead?

1/13 Bonn, Germany

Get a bit of everything Germany has to offer in this charming town on the Rhine: World War II history, museums galore, delicious authentic cuisine, churches, and gorgeous architecture. It’s also the birthplace of a certain famous musician named Ludwig van Beethoven. His childhood home has been preserved as a museum where visitors can see original scores, paintings, letters and instruments, including his grand piano.

2/13 Rouen, France

Located just outside of Paris, this frequently overlooked gem is a must-see for history buffs and anyone looking to feel immersed in French culture. Gothic churches and medieval ruins are just about everywhere you look—not to mention some gnarly-yet-fascinating black plague historical sites. For parents raising strong girls and woke boys, Rouen was also the place where Joan of Arc took her last stand and was burned at the stake. But don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom. You’ll be sure to find outrageously charming cafes, restaurants, and town squares along the Seine, as is expected of any delightful French town.

3/13 Valletta, Malta

Built on a peninsula measuring roughly 1km by 600m, Valletta is a Unesco World Heritage site described as “one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world.” That means you don’t have to go far to find something truly memorable to enjoy. See parliament, St. John’s Cathedral, and the National Museum of Archaeology in a single day. Then spend the rest of your trip swimming in the Mediterranean, sampling Maltese grilled fish or hearty sandwiches on signature ftira bread, and watching the sunset over pristine views at the Upper Barrakka Gardens.

4/13 Karlovy Vary (Carlsbad), Czech Republic

Grab your cameras, because this entire town is Instagram gold. Colorful houses, remarkable architecture, and an ancient watchtower surrounded by rustic forest are just a few of the picturesque sights you can expect. Vary, as it’s known to the locals, gained a reputation as a spa city after Russian tsar Peter the Great spent some time receiving restorative treatments here in the 1700s. After a day of exploring or hiking, you’ll find plenty of spa treatments or cups of traditional healing waters to nurse you back to full strength.

5/13 Evora, Portugal

In Evora, new meets old in the most charming way. A beautifully preserved medieval town, you’ll find tons of ruins, historical sites, and preserved architecture to explore. It’s also home to the University of Evora, which means trendy coffee shops, delightful main streets full of shops, and a youthful vibe amidst the ancient framework of the city.

6/13 The Dordogne Valley, France

If you’ve got the time, the Dordogne Valley is the perfect place to take a family road trip. Consider cruising through La Roque Gageac, Domme, and Rocamadour, to name just a few of the lovely villages within the region. Here you’ll find cottages, castles, cliffs, caves, and greenery so vibrant it’s hard to believe it wasn’t pulled right from the pages of a fairy tale.

7/13 Bruges, Belgium

An alternative to the pricey tourist-haven Brussels, Bruges offers just as much sight-seeing, food, and fun. For Mom and Dad, Belgium is home to some of the best beers, er biers, in the world (reach for pilsners, wit biers, and trappiest varieties for a true taste of Belgium). For the kids, sample some of the city’s signature ginger bread, hot chocolate, or frites (French fries). While Bruges has the typical European staples—museums, churches, gorgeous canals and town squares—consider checking out the Basilica of the Holy Blood. It’s believed the Basilica obtained an actual drop of the Blood of Christ during the crusades, which they bring out for daily viewing on an ornately decorated pillow.

8/13 Wroclaw, Poland

Wandering the city streets never gets old in this delightful river town in western Poland. Kids will love tracking down the city’s famous gnome statues (there are more than 300 scattered about town!), while the Old Town Square and Ratusz Town Hall deliver colorful, intricate architecture. After a day of exploring, refuel with classic Polish comfort food: pierogis, golabki (stuffed cabbage rolls), potato pancakes, and, for dessert, sweet curd cheesecake.

9/13 Naxos, Greece

Skip some of the more touristy islands for this equally stunning ocean-front hub. Here you’ll find the classic white stone Greek buildings as well as a lush mountainous terrain perfect for hiking. Make the trek to the historic Kastro, a hilltop castle that houses a Venetian architecture museum. Or, plop down for a day at the beach and take a dip in the vibrant blue waters of the Aegean Sea.

10/13 Seville, Spain

Enjoy radiant sunshine, miles of bike-able streets packed with stunning architecture, and churros by the fistful in this beautiful Spanish town. Ask around for directions to the nearest convent, where nuns frequently bake and sell Spanish cookies and sugary sweets. Don’t miss the massive and truly jaw-dropping Seville Cathedral before saddling up for a plate of ceviche.

11/13 Matera, Italy

This unique Italian stop often gets overshadowed by the cliffside Cinque Terre or Positano, but make no mistake, even without the coastline, Matera is equally beautiful. The entire city looks as if it was carved out of a single block of limestone and its labyrinthine roads are perfect for exploring on foot. Here you can expect delicious Italian fare (pasta, espresso, gelato, oh my!), as well as plenty of outdoor venues and beautiful museums.

12/13 Frankfurt, Germany

Hear us out: Frankfurt may only get credit as the layover capital of Europe, but its central location and impressive food scene make it a prime spot to spend more than a couple hours waiting for your next flight. Just a short train ride away from several amazing daytrip hotspots—think Heidelberg, Frankenstein Castle, Mainz—it’s the perfect place to crash after a day of exploring. In the city center, check out Romerberg square for incredible food (think schnitzel, beer, and bratwurst) and adorable local shops set among gorgeous reconstructed German buildings. The Main river is perfect for a stroll, family bike ride, or boat trip. And for those looking to hang where the locals hang, check out Apfelwein Solzer, a family-run cider house overflowing with tasty ciders and authentic German culture.

13/13 Brasov, Romania

Widely known as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Brasov is the perfect place to indulge your interest in all things ancient and macabre. Check out Bran Castle (the inspo for Dracula’s castle in the book) via the kitschy bat-themed Taxi Bran or roam the streets overflowing with baroque churches and red-roofed buildings. For some fresh air, explore the area’s surrounding forest-covered hills via the cable car to the top of Tampa Mountain where you can see the city’s Hollywood-style Brasov sign. And don’t forget to sample the city’s famous street food served in wooden carts called Kurtos Kalacs. Our favorite? The cylindrical spit-roasted cakes served on sticks—ideal for snacking while you walk!

By Ashley Sepanski