Backpacking Europe is beautiful because there are a lot of hidden gems. Below we list five towns that aren’t as famous as the largest European metropolises, but equally compelling for backpacking Europe. They’re worth visiting – for a variety of reasons. Not as crowded as the widely known tourist destinations, affordable and captivating, these cities deserve being included in a backpacker’s bucket list.
Cultural diversity, magnificent architecture, unique atmosphere – that’s Sarajevo. The capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina can’t be compared with any other city in Europe. It’s hard to find this particular vibe elsewhere. Mosques stand next to churches and make it impossible for the religious diversity to go unnoticed. Sarajevo is known as a meeting point for Islam, Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Judaism. The differences, along with many other factors, for years were a cause of tragic conflicts. Sarajevo is a city that suffered the most, but it recently renewed and opened. Although still often associated with the Yugoslav Wars, Sarajevo is now a safe place.
The locals are incredibly welcoming. The old town is just breath-taking with its mysterious cobbled streets, beautiful buildings and Asian stores. There’re lots of cafés where you can have a cup of Turkish coffee, admire traditional carpets and sit in old-style chairs. There are also lovely restaurants and great hotels. As for the prices, everything’s affordable. Coffee costs around 0,5-1Euro and an excellent meal are just 3-5 Euros. A bed in a hostel dorm usually costs about 10 Euros (we use Euros to make it simpler, but Bosnia-Herzegovina has its currency, just as most of the countries included in the list; only Estonia used the Euro).
Albania’s capital is notoriously overlooked by visitors. It’s understandable in a way because Albanian nature is awe-inspiring and many prefer to explore the coast and mountains rather than cities. Nevertheless, Tirana’s also worth stopping by, at least for two or three days. It’s a very particular place, different than most European capitals. Tirana isn’t exactly beautiful. There’s no old town as such, not many historic buildings that could be called “striking” or squares that could be called “cozy.” It’s fascinating, though, in its particular way. First of all, the locals are charming. They’re always glad to receive visitors and introduce them to the Albanian culture. Besides, Tirana has plentiful attractions.
As mentioned before, it’s not the prettiest town of all, but it has a lot to offer. If you’re a food lover, you’ll love it. Food in Tirana is cheap and delicious. You can get a fabulous dinner for as much as 4-5 Euros. Coffee’s awesome too and equally cheap – Italian macchiato or a cup of Turkish coffee costs about 70 Cents. The nightlife is vibrant, especially for barflies. There aren’t so many clubs, but if you prefer pubs and bars, finding a good one won’t take you much time. With so many restaurants and cafés, Tirana seems to be bursting with life. If you add little stores, people selling fruit and vegetables on the streets in old-style booths, older people playing games on sidewalks and fabulously dressed young people sipping their cocktails, you’ll get a lively, colorful and somewhat exotic city – and that’s what Tirana is.
There’s something special about Wroclaw’s atmosphere. It’s a student town, so there are lots of young people. It’s more than just a student city, though. It feels as if nearly everyone living in Wroclaw was as full of energy as an average student. Wroclaw just feels youthful – in many different ways. It’s quite a modern city, but not in an overwhelming way. The old stuff is still there, and it’s in a great shape. Wroclaw has many historic buildings. The market square charms visitors with brightly painted tenant houses. There are countless bridges, which makes the city very atmospheric, especially at night when they’re all romantically lit.
The nightlife is bustling – whether you prefer smokey pubs, colorful bars or crazy clubs, you’ll find something suitable there. There’re lots of cultural events, especially now, since Wroclaw has been chosen to be the European Capital of Culture 2016. Prices are low, so you can make use out of all these attractions even if your budget is tight. If you’re planning to visit Poland, you should seriously consider adding Wroclaw to your schedule. If you’re not planning to visit Poland – you should start doing it now (and start your trip from this lovely town).
Not only Prizren, but the whole Kosovo is being overlooked by travelers. Even adventurous backpackers tend to forget it. It’s a pity for both the travelers and locals. For the first – because they miss a chance of visiting a fascinating place, for the latter- because they’re very hospitable and love visitors. Kosovars are welcoming; they’re always happy to receive guests and share their culture. That concerns the whole country, but what about Prizren itself? Well, it’s often being considered to be the most beautiful town in Kosovo. The architecture there is lovely and very diverse. Prizren has a long history during which was influenced by different cultures and it’s evident – you only need to walk around a bit to notice it.
The town’s rather small, but lively and not boring. There are some nice cafés, bars, and great restaurants. The locals like spending time outside, drinking coffee and meeting up with friends. If you give them a chance, they’ll surely invite you to join them. As other cities included on the list, Prizren’s also very cheap. Food is yummy and affordable, and so are all the drinks. There are two backpacker hostels where a night in a dorm costs about 10-12 Euros. We should also mention one more thing. Many people, when hearing about Kosovo, immediately think of the Kosovo War from 1998-1999, yet it’s been over 15 years now, and the country is now safe. Summing up, Prizren is a little jewel hidden somewhere in the Balkans, and it should finally be discovered.
Estonia, the mysterious corner of Europe, doesn’t belong to the continent’s most popular tourist destinations. In fact, people tend to overlook it even when they just watch the map – it was small and located up in the north, right next to the vast land of Russia. They make a mistake. Estonia, despite being so small, is a fascinating country. Tartu is its second largest city, after Tallinn, the capital. It’s mainly known as a student town, and this reputation fits it indeed. Students make more than a half of the population. The city isn’t a metropolis, but because of the students, the nightlife is impressively vibrant for a town of such a size. The riverfront together with the greenery of parks makes it lovely and livable.
The town’s dotted with wooden houses painted in a variety of colors, some of them small and cute, others large and slightly mysterious, all looking as if they were brought to the reality straight from a fairy-tale. The historic buildings also add their charm to the scenery. The unique thing about Tartu is the mixture of seemingly peaceful setting with the energetic vibe created by its young inhabitants. As for the financial side – Estonia uses Euro, but the prices are lower than in most of the countries that belong to the Euro Zone, so Tartu’s a very affordable town.
Do you know any other European cities that are unpopular, attractive and inexpensive at the same time? Let us know! And don’t forget to share this article with your friends, especially those who’re into backpacking Europe!