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I love London and Paris just as much as the next person but sometimes I find the cities way too touristy and overwhelming! You can’t walk more than 10 feet without running into another American. Throughout my travels in Europe, I’ve come across some great cities and regions that offer similar experiences to those touristy cities…without the tourists! And most of the time, these places are significantly cheaper than the touristy destination. So go visit some of these alternative European city breaks before the secret is out and tourists start to overwhelm them!

1. Edinburgh instead of London

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Totally biased because I went to business school in Edinburgh, but my final decision actually came down to a school in London and one in Edinburgh. So why did I choose Edinburgh? I liked that it was a city with a super friendly, British feel while having a distinct Scottish personality. The architecture, history, buildings, culture, and food make it a top-notch destination in Great Britain for a fraction of the price.

2. Brussels instead of Paris

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Paris, the city of love, is a stunning city with adorable, unique neighborhoods. You know what isn’t stunning? The prices and (sometimes) smell of the city. Avoid it and hop on a train to Brussels! Not only do I consider Brussels a mini Paris, but you have easy access to Bruges and Ghent, two of the most underrated cities in all of Europe.

3. Berlin instead of Amsterdam

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I love Amsterdam. The canals, the reflection of the buildings on the water, and the quirkiness of the residents. Looking for a similar, unique city with a super cool population? Check out Berlin! An insanely cheap capital city rich in politics, history, and culture that encourages quirkiness!

4. Budapest instead of Vienna

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Want a similar city as Vienna without all the high prices (and cold weather!)? Check out Budapest. With architecture and culture influenced by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, there is a similar feel between the two cities. However, with an additional Turkish influence in Budapest, the city has a slightly different, but great, feel to it. Don’t miss the famous Turkish baths in the city!

5. Tallin or Reykjavik instead of Copenhagen or Stockholm

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Copenhagen and Stockholm are two of the prettiest, yet most expensive, cities not only in Europe but the entire world! While you should definitely visit these cities one day, save your money and head to Tallinn. The city is rich in history and culture yet remains unknown to most tourists. Plus, it is such a walk-able city!

If money isn’t an issue and you want a super cool, unique experience, hop on the next flight to Reykjavik, Iceland! It is only a 4-5 plane ride from the East Coast :) The scenery is absolutely gorgeous! Plus, this is definitely a “hot” destination right now so visit before it becomes overwhelmed with tourists.

6. Lisbon instead of Barcelona

6 Alternative European Destinations via Wayfaring With WagnerJust as warm as Barcelona, but much cheaper, Lisbon is still a relatively unpopular city in Europe, especially with Americans! Located on the Atlantic Ocean and close to many day trips, Lisbon is the perfect alternative to busy, bustling Barcelona!

BONUS: Croatian Coast instead of Italian Coast

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Everyone heads to the Italian coast. While gorgeous, why don’t you head to the less crowded Croatian coast? While Dubrovnik is quite popular, head to the lesser-known cities of Opatija and Split as well as the island of Hvar. The water is a mixture of blues while the seafood is mouth-watering. Plus, Croatia is insanely cheap!

While I love London, Paris, Amsterdam, Vienna, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Barcelona, it is nice to experience similar cultures without the touristy aspects of these major cities. Of course, you should definitely visit these 6 cities at some point! However, if you’re yearning for a more low-key, authentic vacation, I suggest visiting Edinburgh, Brussels, Berlin, Budapest, Tallinn, or Reykjavik!

Are there any cities that you would add to this list?


  1. Christina Guan Reply

    Really great post! I did Cinque Terre/the Amalfi Coast last summer and will be visiting Croatia this summer so I am SO excited! :) I totally agree that sometimes being around too many tourists is overwhelming. If you do a Part II, you should definitely list an alternative for Rome haha (it is SO crowded with tourists).

    • Jordan Reply

      hahaha oh goodness, I realize I never put anything for Italy on here! Good idea :) Have so much fun in Croatia! I’m hoping to write a guide to the Croatian coast because it is one of my favorite places in the entire world! Thanks for stopping by xo

  2. Christine Keane Reply

    What a great post Jordan! Such great recs too! Love Edinburgh and so jealous that you get to go to school there! And would love to visit Croatia one day!

    • Jordan Reply

      Thanks so much Christine! Well, Edinburgh is just a quick flight from the USA is you ever come over ;) And yes, I think that everyone needs to add Croatia to their travel bucket list!

  3. what GREAT recommendations. I LOVE all of these ideas!! Such a cleaver post from a cleaver gal.


    • Jordan Reply

      Thanks so much Isabel! Lisbon is SO CHEAP and Reykjavik is gorgeous!!! I went there on a layover from the USA to Europe…maybe you could do it on a layover from Mexico to Europe?!

    • Jordan Reply

      Ahhh!!! I feel bad because I never even saw that post and totally wouldn’t have posted this so soon (it is a revision of a previous post I wrote for another website). Thankfully not all our places overlap :) xo

  4. Ahh I love love love Berlin! Seriously the most underrated European city in my opinion. I was there last weekend for three days and was just blown away. I mean, that street art!


    • Jordan Reply

      I know!!!! And I love how all the neighborhoods have their own unique, quirky feel to them :) Berlin is really one of the best cities in Europe! xo

    • Jordan Reply

      Thanks so much!!! Estonia and Iceland are both such gorgeous places. Iceland is definitely starting to get more popular but I feel like Estonia is still virtually unknown.

    • Jordan Reply

      Thanks so much Kaelene! I loved looking at all your pictures from your time in Croatia! :)

  5. I love Edinburgh! Croatia seems to be getting really popular now – everyone is going there.

    I’ve been wanting to go to Tallin for about 5 years but other stuff keeps coming up.

    • Jordan Reply

      It is funny, I heard that Europeans, especially Germans and Brits, have increased their tourism to Croatia exponentially in the past few years. Yet, it is still quite unknown to Americans (I’m assuming based on the distance?). You definitely need to get to Tallinn!

    • Jordan Reply

      Yes! I really need to write a post on the Croatian Coast because it is absolutely beautiful and one of my favorite places in the world :)

    • Jordan Reply

      Thanks for stopping by Alex! Tallinn is definitely less touristy than Reykjavik which keeps getting more and more popular! You definitely need to visit both though :)

  6. I second pretty much all the recommendations (haven’t been to Croatia yet, but it’s on the list!)

    Here’s my additional recommendation: Instead of Rome, go to Genoa! On the coast (great swimming), amazing food, and a short train ride away from Cinque Terra which is simply gorgeous, and walkable over the course of a day if you want.

    • Jordan Reply

      You need to get to Croatia…it is amazing!!! Yes, I actually did Genoa on a stopover before I went to Cinque Terre. Genoa really surprised me (in a good way) as a city!

  7. I love this post – I’m always looking for travel inspiration and these are all on my list. I wasn’t too keen on Brussels, but if I’m recommending places to visit in Belgium I could talk for days about my love for Ghent!

    • Jordan Reply

      So funny, Brussels definitely wasn’t one of my favorites but I’m with you, I LOVED Ghent and Bruges!

    • Jordan Reply

      Ahhhh, you are going to love the Croatian coast!!! I definitely need to do some sort of post on the Croatian coast because it is definitely one of my favorite places in the world!

    • Jordan Reply

      Totally agree. These places definitely aren’t “unknown” but definitely less visited. Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Amazing post!! haha I’m definitely biased about Scotland too, I decided to go Grad school here instead of down in England exactly for that reason! And I’m looking for many many of these alternative european destinations too :)

    • Jordan Reply

      Thanks so much for the sweet words! I would definitely love to meet up with you when I arrive in Edinburgh this fall!

  9. Being a European and having been to all of the mentioned places I am not sure you know what you are talking about.Your “alternatives” are nice,but see the “originals” and TIME your trips well rather,then not go there.

    • Jordan Reply

      Oh yes, I totally agree that everyone should see the originals! That’s why I mentioned at the end to definitely see all the “originals” at some time in your life. However, coming up on the summer months, some of these “originals” can be overwhelming and not everyone has the flexibility to time their trips, especially Americans who get horrible vacation time! :)

  10. Great list, Jordan. For people looking for something other than Paris (which I love), I would highly recommend Bordeaux. Not only does Bordeaux remind me of Paris (only different in its own way), but you can also take day-trips into Bordeaux’s wine country.

  11. hannah @ traveling banana Reply

    Yessss to all of these! And while you’re in Brussels, hop the train to Bruges! Why not?! And Portugal for the win every time, I’m obsesssssed with Porto and need to get to Lisbon soon! Great recommendations. :)

  12. This is a great list. For sure about Edinburgh. But I might be biased because I am moving there too, ha. Brussels was also a favorite of mine, although Paris is hard to beat. And I am right there with you on Bruges and Ghent!

  13. Love this post! I like the touristy cities too, but they can get super overwhleming! While you definitely have to see them some day, sometimes I just want to get a real authentic feel for a place, and that’s hard to do in a tourist dominated city! Thanks for the tips :D

  14. Hi Jordan! Just found your blog through Unlocking Kiki and I was blown away to discover a fellow Michigander expat living in the Rhein Necker region! My husband and I moved to Mannheim last August for work from south eastern Michigan. I love your ideas in this post and completely agree with exploring less touristy cities. Feel free to check out our own blog:

  15. Great post& brilliant recommendations! Both Croatia and Iceland are on my ‘must visit’ lists. Great choice on a Edinburgh – it’s a beautiful city and full of culture. The most exciting (and busiest) month in Ed is August, hope you get to be there for some of the Fringe festival! :)

  16. YES. these recs are incredible! I am SUCH a fan of all of your alt suggestions…and I’ve been away from it long enough to almost, a little bit agree with #2 ;)

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