London, Rome, Paris…..been there, got the T shirt and the Buckingham Palace mug, the Eiffel Tower keyring and the Vatican fridge magnet. Now you want to go somewhere a little less well trodden by coachloads of package tourists, somewhere you can drink with the locals, eat regional food and hear the native language.
In other words, you want somewhere off the beaten track but still super hip, right?
Read on for the Top 10 Coolest European cities
10 – Vienna
Sssh…Vienna is one of Europe’s best kept secrets. When you’re there, you’ll wonder why its beauty hasn’t been shouted about from the charming rooftops. It’s an enchanted city straight out of Grimm’s fairytales – it wouldn’t be at all surprising if Prince Charming and Sleeping Beauty popped out of one of the castles.
Home to some legendary heavyweights – Mozart, Beethoven and Sigmund Freud, the city oozes history. If modern art is your thing, you’ll find plenty of Klimt and Schiele to tickle your fancy in the museums.
And by the way, the diet’s on hold for the duration, it would be rude not to sample a Viennese cake or 3.
9 – Reykjavik, Iceland
A capital city whose name is a challenge even for the spelling queen bees, Reykjavik has recently undergone a meteoric rise up the hip city rankings.
From the space age Hallgrimskirkja church and the Perlan glass dome, the views of the ocean and the snow-dusted hills are jaw dropping – perfect places for numerous selfies to wow the folks back home with.
If you think Reykjavik’s just about spectacular landscapes, think again; the music and arts scene is well and truly established and rumour has it, the nightlife ain’t bad either. Pub quiz addicts, did you know Reykjavik’s the world’s northernmost capital? Hint…thermals might not be sexy but you’ll be glad of them, trust me!
8 – Riga, Latvia
Another piece of trivia for the pub quizzers….Riga, a UNESCO world heritage site has staked its claim to fame by declaring itself the European wifi capital; at the last count, there were more than 1000 free wifi hotspots!
If vintage makes you go weak at the knees, you’ll love Riga – lining the city streets are some of the world’s best examples of art nouveau architecture.
And for the diehard foodies, the smoked fish, cheese, sausage and black bread will have you salivating crazily at the enormous Central Market. Feeling adventurous and wanting something a little different on the drink front, try the local tipple – Riga Black Balsam – vodka aged in oak and infused with 24 botanicals. Drink it neat, add it to coffee or spice up your ice cream with it!
7 – Lisbon, Portugal
It could be argued that Lisbon is the best of all possible worlds – beaches, fabulous seafood, washed down with fine wine, wonderful architecture and as much art as you can handle.
You can happily while away many an hour strolling around Lisbon’s squares and winding streets, stopping frequently at cafes selling Portugal’s signature pastries, pastéis de nata.
And then you can sweat off the calories by clambering up one of the 7 surrounding hills to take some stunning photos to impress your Facebook friends.
6 – Victoria, Gozo
So far off the radar, I bet you’ve not even heard of this Mediterranean slice of heaven. Well, Victoria (also known as Rabat) is the capital of Gozo, a little island near Malta. It’s a small fortified city built on top of a hill with a fabulous citadel.
Tiny island Gozo may be but some big budget films have been shot there. In the legendary Game of Thrones, the awesome rock formation, the Azure Window frequently features.
Historic, unbelievably picturesque, great local food and wine. What more do you need?
5 – Siena, Italy
Less well known and overcrowded than its famous neighbour, Florence, Siena is a city described in superlatives. If your idea of a cool city is one teeming with glorious Renaissance palaces and stunning works of art, Siena ticks all the boxes, many times over.
The Campo, Siena’s central piazza is not only Europe’s most beautiful medieval square but since 1664, it also hosts the world famous Palio horse race every July and August.
And then there’s the bewildering choice of charming osteria serving regional dishes and of course, local wines. What’s not to like?
4 – Glasgow
Although the weather’s challenging, Glasgow has been deemed the world’s friendliest city and, if you can understand the accent, the Glaswegian sense of humour is second to none.
Often overlooked in favour of its more genteel cousin, Edinburgh, there’s a lot more to Glasgow than people think. Defying its reputation as rough and ready, Glasgow actually has its fair share of culture. One of its most famous inhabitants was the art nouveau artist and architect, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and there are lots of examples of his work dotted around the city.
Scottish Opera, Ballet and the National Theatre of Scotland are all based in Glasgow but if you like mixing your culture up with some fine whiskies, you’re in the right city.
And although there are many fine dining opportunities, Glasgow’s also well known for the deadly deep fried mars bar!
3 – Seville
Geek alert: Seville is Western Europe’s hottest city, so don’t forget the factor 50 if you’re visiting. And on the subject of weather, sunshine is in plentiful supply – on the summer solstice, the Seville sun doesn’t set until 11.43..not quite the land of the midnight sun but almost.
A Spanish city with Moorish influences, the old town of Seville has no less than three UNESCO world heritage sites, so plenty to see whilst you’re in town.
Anyone who wants a generous dollop of Seville’s history and traditional culture would be well advised to book in during La Semana Santa or for Feria de Abril – 2 weeks of festivities, floats, processions, costumes and dancing.
Inbetween all the fun and sightseeing, regular refuelling stops for tapas in Seville’s old winding streets are absolutely compulsory.
2 – Krakow
Another Eastern European city to move from Communist obscurity to ubercool destination is Kraków. According to legend once upon a time, a particularly unpleasant dragon named Wawe dined on sheep and local maidens until both were on the verge of extinction. Just in the nick of time, along came our hero, Krak, a humble cobbler who finished Wawel off once and for all, and the rest, as they say is history. With its castles and caves, it’s not too much of a stretch to believe this version of Kraków’s origins.
In the Old Town, another UNESCO world heritage site, you’ll need a selfie standing in Europe’s biggest market square to post on Instagram.
Ruined synagogues in the former Jewish quarter tell their own tragic Holocaust story. And in the streets of the Old Town, you’ll hardly be able to move for spectacular churches and museums, mixed in with great restaurants and bars where you can fill your stomach and your boots for a fraction of what you’d pay in Western Europe.
1 – Berlin
After the legendary collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Berlin went from a less well travelled city to cutting edge multicultural hedonistic hip in a heartbeat. Talking of the wall, 1.3kms of it has become the world’s longest art gallery with 101 paintings by artists from 21 countries.
Another little known fact is that with a whopping 1700 bridges, Berlin has more bridges than the European watery capital, Venice. With 1800 kms of waterways, you can cruise around Berlin by boat instead of wearing your shoes out…and you get to conserve your energy for Berlin’s famous parties which allegedly go on, not for hours but days!
Oh and here’s a quirky fact to throw into the dinner party conversation – way back in 1924, the very first set of traffic lights in Europe were installed in Berlin. Fancy that!