Joe Minihane, CNN • Updated 23rd July 2019
Here’s our pick of the most beautiful European cities with hardly any tourists:
While Avignon draws in thousands of tourists thanks to its summer festival and arresting Papal Palace, nearby Orange is usually overlooked.
The saying goes that Norwich has a pub for every day of the year and a church for every Sunday.
While that’s perhaps stretching the truth, this most quintessential of English cities is certainly home to some of the most stunning medieval architecture in England.
Norwich Cathedral dates back to 1096 and the streets of Colegate and Elm Hill are home to picturesque, centuries-old homes.
The Adam and Eve pub, on Bishopsgate, is said to be the oldest pub in the country, dating back to 1249.
Denmark’s second city has long been overshadowed by its alluring capital Copenhagen.
But Aarhus makes the perfect alternative for a Danish long weekend thanks to its pretty beaches, towering Domkirke and the superb ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, with its rainbow panorama walkway.
Highlights include the diamond Square Mile, where travelers can get to the heart of an industry that’s been a core part of the city since the 15th century.
The Hague, Netherlands
The city boasts some of the Netherlands’ finest architecture, a pretty network of canals and, in the Mauritshuis, a museum to rival Amsterdam’s behemoth Rijksmuseum.
It’s also just 15 minutes away from the gorgeous Scheveningen beach resort.
Often snubbed for more popular destinations in neighboring Croatia, Sarajevo is a resurgent city brimful of culture and history.
At its heart is Baščaršija, the old market quarter that still buzzes with spice stalls, cafés and the fascinating Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque.
The Kosovan capital isn’t usually at the top of many tourists’ destination wish lists, but that’s no reason not to visit this fascinating city.
While Pristina may have been synonymous with war 20 years ago, its undergone a major transformation since then, with various quirky buildings popping up.
Pristina University’s unique library will fascinate architecture buffs, while those looking to cool off can find solace in the vast pool tucked away in Germia Park, located just north of the city.
Malmo is so much more than a day trip across the Oresund Bridge from Copenhagen.
Meanwhile Ribersborg beach, located just a short walk from the city center, is a wonderful haven from the heat in high summer.
The hordes visiting the Scottish capital can feel hugely oppressive, particularly during its annual festivals.
However, travelers keen to escape the crowds can simply head north to Aberdeen instead.
The city’s amazing architecture has given rise to the nickname “Granite City,” with fascinating buildings at every turn.
Aberdeen’s main art gallery is due to reopen in late September 2019, while those keen to sample the local culture can head out to nearby Speyside for a tour of some of Scotland’s best single malt distilleries.
While travelers often simply pass through the Swiss capital en route to a summer vacation or winter ski trip in Zurich or Geneva, Bern is definitely worthy of a few extra days of your trip.
When the heat rises, locals take to the River Aare for cooling dips and paddle board trips.
Elsewhere, the Museum of Fine Arts features works by Picasso and Klee, while hikers can tramp to the top of the Gurten, the mountain which overlooks the old city.
Few small cities in Europe pack a cultural punch like Wroclaw.
This western Polish city, on the banks of the Oder river, served as European Capital of Culture in 2016 and has plenty of attractions for art, architecture and history fanatics to marvel at.
Wroclaw’s main highlight is the 114-meter Panorama of Racławice, depicting the 1794 defeat of a Russian army by the Poles.
The beautiful Centennial Hall should also be on any itinerary, as should the Penitent Bridge between the towers of the Mary Magdalene Church.
No visit is complete without a day spent exploring the Gothic Old Town.
The capital city of Georgia, which is actually positioned between Asia and Europe, derives its name from the hot springs that bubble beneath its surface.
Its sulfur baths are a magnet for visitors, albeit far fewer than those that head to the famous spas.
Tbilisi wears its multi-ethnic history with pride — the famous Metekhi Church, which dates back to the 13th century, sits close to the Narikala Fortress, built by the occupying Persians in the fourth century.
Meanwhile, the rambling alleyways and small shops of the Old Town are perfect for whiling away the hours.
Having been almost destroyed during World War II, the now Belarusian capital became fertile ground for Soviet redevelopment.
Today, the city’s buildings offer a fascinating glimpse into a bygone era of brutalist buildings.
Travelers can wander around the vast, seven-hectare Independence Square before taking in the Museum of the Great Patriotic War, which looks at how Belarus overcame Nazi occupation.
The Armenian capital’s position in the far eastern reaches of Europe means it’s easily forgotten by those on the tourist trail.
But with a history going back more than 2,800 years, there’s a palpable sense of the past here, without the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds of regular tourist hotspots.
Its downtown area is a mix of Beaux Arts buildings and hulking, Soviet-era blocks.
Romania’s second largest city is often seen as a stop off for travelers looking for outdoor adventures in the Apuseni Mountains, or those keen to witness Transylvania’s historic sights.
Throw in a thriving café and bar scene and pretty squares, and Cluj-Napoca has all the trappings of the ideal city break destination.
While Budapest has a deserved reputation as one of Europe’s most appealing cities, Debrecen is an excellent option for those seeking a less crowded Hungarian alternative.
Yet it’s beyond these major sights that the real action takes place.
The Old Town rewards those looking to get lost with excellent cafés and people-watching spots.
Keep an eye out for smaller spa hotels, with a chance to soak in thermal waters before heading to the nearby Great Plains.
When it comes to city breaks, Istanbul tends to take all the plaudits.
But capital city Ankara is so much more than a stop off on the way to Cappadocia and the other delights of Anatolia.
Anitkabir, the mausoleum of modern Turkey founder Ataturk, is an obvious starting point, along with the Museum of the War of Independence.
The Kocatepe and Hacı Bayram Mosques are also key attractions, while the cafés of Kızılay are ideal spots to grab a kebab and watch the world go by.
Currently enjoying its time in the limelight as a European Capital of Culture, Plovdiv is Europe’s longest inhabited city.
As a result, it’s imbued with an inescapable sense of history, especially in the colorful Old Town.
The main draw here is the astonishing second-century Roman amphitheater, which wasn’t uncovered until the 1970s.
Another highlight is the Thracian ruins of Eumolpias, located just outside town and dating back 5,000 years.
Located on the fjord of the same name, Trondheim is Norway’s third largest city.
However, with fewer than 200,000 residents, it’s decidedly uncrowded and easy to explore.
The famous Gothic cathedral is perhaps its best known sight, but the views across the water and around its vibrant harbor are just as impressive.
Venice’s struggles with tourist numbers have been well documented, but while still popular with travelers, nearby Turin is decidedly less congested.
Travelers can simply sip a coffee on the sidewalk, indulge in some of the country’s best cuisine and enjoy being away from the hordes in the country’s hot spots.