6 Charming & Affordable European Cities You Haven't Visited Yet
You'll get a warm welcome, find stylish steals, and enjoy food, wine, fashion, and culture that's second to none in these intimate European metropolises.
WHERE TO STAY. DoubleTree Milan is affordable and reliable (Via Ludovico di Breme 77, doubletree3.hilton.com).
GET THERE. Milan is 167 miles west of Venice, a two-and-a-half-hour drive or two hours and 15 minutes by train.
History comes alive on the Mediterranean
You don't have to remember the name Diocletian to have a blast in Split, a city of more than 250,000, but you can thank him for pioneering the notion of Split as a lesser-known Mediterranean getaway. A Roman emperor who abdicated his position in the face of rival claims, Diocletian built an amazing palace here, completed in A.D. 305, and to this day the city has one of Europe's finest collections of Roman ruins.
WHY SPLIT IS SECOND TO NONE. From Diocletian's day to the present, Split has done an exceptional job of preserving its past, making it a first-rate destination for immersing yourself in living history—even in the face of the civil war that rocked Croatia in the 1990s. This UNESCO World Heritage Site invites you to balance your beach-going and nightlife with visits to its Roman ruins, medieval forts, Romanesque churches dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries, plus Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque palaces and other noteworthy buildings; a historic district, archeological museum, and of course the ruins of Diocletian's palace round out the historical offerings.
MUST-SEE SIGHTS. When you yearn to return to the land of the living, drop yourself on Bacvice beach, a crescent-shaped stretch of sand that rivals any of the tonier—and pricier—Mediterranean beaches. We won't tell if all you want to do is stretch out on a blanket and soak up some rays. But when the sun goes down, dip a toe into Split's lively bar scene, with popular "crawls" around the neighborhood of the Roman palace ruins. In the morning, get classy again with a trip to the Metrovic Gallery, spotlighting the work of Croatia's best-known sculpture, Ivan Mestrovic.
WHERE TO EAT. Buffet Fife serves big portions of grilled local meats and fish (Trumbiceva Obala 11, 385/21-345-223).
WHERE TO STAY. Hotel Globo is a 10-minute walk to Split's historic district (Lovretska Ulica 18, hotelglobo.com).
GET THERE. Split is 140 miles northwest of Dubrovnik, Croatia, a three-hour drive.
Europe's greenest city
Hamburg's location on the Elbe river less than 70 miles from the North Sea has made it a vital port for centuries, but it's seldom visited by American tourists. Duck into the sketchy Reeperbahn or check out the bustling fischmarkt and you'll experience one Hamburg. Kick back in one of its exceptional green spaces and you'll experience quite another. Devastated by bombings during WWII, and the place where four lads from Liverpool first became international stars, Hamburg is ready for its close-up.
WHY HAMBURG IS SECOND TO NONE. We love the fact that gritty Hamburg is also a shining example of green living—half of the city is given over to parks, woodlands, gardens, and water. Devote a day to a park such as Planten un Blomen ("plants and flowers"), in the center of the city, or check out HafenCity, a 388-acre redevelopment-in-progress (the most ambitious in Europe) on the harbor that has created an entirely new residential and business district, featuring bold new buildings by some of the world's "starchitects."
MUST-SEE SIGHTS. While we don't recommend the Reeperbahn (the city's red-light district) in general, Beatles fans should consider taking a guided tour devoted to the band's history and its early-'60s performances here. Or, if you want to party like its 1897, savor the Rathaus, or city hall, located on gorgeous Binnenalster lake. The Kunsthalle museum boasts a collection ranging from Old Masters to modern art, with rotating exhibitions dedicated to contemporary paintings, photography, and mixed media.
WHERE TO EAT. River Kasematten is popular for its sushi and other delights (Sankt Pauli Fischmarkt 28-32, river-kasematten.de).
WHERE TO STAY. Hotel Hafen Hamburg has a great location on the harbor (Seewartenstrasse 9, hotel-hafen-hamburg.de).
GET THERE. Hamburg is 180 miles northwest of Berlin, a three-hour drive or 90 minutes by train.