Five incredible under-the-radar European cities that have to be seen to be believed

Impromeau flamenco dancing in Granada, Spain
Impromeau flamenco dancing in Granada, Spain

This article was sponsored by Helloworld Travel & Cruise Centre

Europe is a rich tapestry of cultures stitched closely together, yet each somehow retains a unique combination of culinary delights, natural landscapes, ancient historical backbones and cult-icon edginess.

The one thing each culture does share is a celebration of life – and there’s no better way to immerse yourself in this than avoiding the tourist epicentres and taking the road less-travelled. 

Here are five incredible under-the-radar European cities worth a look-in. 

Mykonos

Mykonos is bursting with vivid fresh flavours including ruby-red tomatoes and seafood straight off the boat.

Mykonos is bursting with vivid fresh flavours including ruby-red tomatoes and seafood straight off the boat.

When it comes to the Greek Islands, travellers often flock to luxury destination Santorini, an island with no shortage of tourism traffic. But if your idea of an island getaway is less crowded and more calm, think Mykonos.

Mykonos’ main town is lined with beautiful white-stone cobbled laneways with hanging magenta bougainvilleas overhead dousing you in fragrance. The iconic ultramarine blue trim that lines the facades is rivalled only by the intense blue of the surrounding Aegean Sea.

Magenta bougainvilleas are a common and pleasurable sight on the island.

Magenta bougainvilleas are a common and pleasurable sight on the island.

Mykonos seems to work on a clock that ticks slower than the other islands, and there’s no shortage of beach clubs, fine dining and shopping, from beautiful handmade tassel bags to luxury brand name shop fronts like Louis Vuitton. Iconic landmarks include a row of 16th-century windmills, which sit on a hill above Mykonos town. 

Stockholm

Stockholm feels really edgy, yet also holds centuries of incredible history within the city.

Stockholm feels really edgy, yet also holds centuries of incredible history within the city.

There’s no delicate way to say it – Stockholm is really good-looking. The city is situated across 14 separate islands stitched together by passenger boats and bridges that have been in vogue since the stone age.

The low-slung islands between the Baltic Sea and Mälaren (Sweden’s third-largest lake) have experienced a rapid technological finesse but somehow retain their ancient magic and charm. 

Dizzying -  a pedestrian walk on Sergels Torg with the glass obelisk Kristallvertikalaccent. It is central public square in the city in Stockholm, Sweden.

Dizzying - a pedestrian walk on Sergels Torg with the glass obelisk Kristallvertikalaccent. It is central public square in the city in Stockholm, Sweden.

Wander through the streets of Stockholm and you’ll see an abundance of leafy parks, winding walking trails and swimming spots lined with waterside bars and restaurants. Look skyward and you’ll notice the romantic spires of the skyline particularly around Gamla Stan, the well-preserved Old Town founded in the mid-13th Century.

Waterways surround the many islands that make up the city of Stockholm.

Waterways surround the many islands that make up the city of Stockholm.

But Stockholm has the personality to match the beauty. Debatably the cool-capital of Scandinavia, the city attracts the brightest thinkers and has names like Spotify and Minecraft as some of its most successful exports. 

Even the subway is a work of art - T-Centralen Station in Stockholm, Sweden

Even the subway is a work of art - T-Centralen Station in Stockholm, Sweden

This has created a flow-on effect of trendy cafes, skandi-fashion and funky art galleries. Fantastiskt!

Naples

Naples is full of attitude and authenticity - somewhat grimier than glossy Milan or overrun Rome.

Naples is full of attitude and authenticity - somewhat grimier than glossy Milan or overrun Rome.

Forget the glossiness of Milan or the vibrancy of Rome – Naples is an unapologetic Italian city with attitude. Situated on the west coast and boasting the country’s best pizza, Naples is an incredibly underrated destination.

Naples' coastal location means the city is full of the freshest seafood for the perfect spaghetti alle vongole.

Naples' coastal location means the city is full of the freshest seafood for the perfect spaghetti alle vongole.

The city is also an incredible launching pad to visit Mount Vesuvius, the still active volcano that destroyed nearby Roman town Pompeii, and the Amalfi coast, a hidden luxury destination for the stars. Or stay local and discover the incredibly significant art and architecture of Naples, including a 13th century castle and a fresco-lined cathedral. 

The streets of Naples hold centuries of history and a real Italian edge to them.

The streets of Naples hold centuries of history and a real Italian edge to them.

Cruise to glamourous nearby island Capri located in the Bay of Naples, famous for designer fashion, sour Italian liquor limoncello and handmade leather sandals. A sight not to be missed is the Blue Grotto, a dark cavern where the ocean glows an electric blue, thanks to sunlight passing through the cave. 

The light that shines in makes the Blue Grotto seem eerily electrified

The light that shines in makes the Blue Grotto seem eerily electrified

Monte Carlo 

Interestingly, the citizens of Monaco are forbidden to enter the gaming rooms of the casino. The rule banning all Monegasques from gambling or working at the casino was an initiative of Princess Caroline, de facto regent of Monaco, who amended the rules on moral grounds.

Interestingly, the citizens of Monaco are forbidden to enter the gaming rooms of the casino. The rule banning all Monegasques from gambling or working at the casino was an initiative of Princess Caroline, de facto regent of Monaco, who amended the rules on moral grounds.

Feeling lucky? Head to Monte Carlo in Monaco, one of the four traditional quarters situated on a prominent escarpment at the base of the Maritime Alps on the French Riviera. Try your hand at poker in the world-famous Place du Casino in western end that has turned the quarter’s name into a world-famous phrase for fame and extravagant wealth. 

Head to the east of the quarter into the community of Larvotto to enjoy Monaco’s only public beach, where the sand is thick and grainy and the ocean is a deep turquoise colour. Keep an eye out for celebrities and royalty – Monaco has long been a European playground for the stars. 

It's a place fit for a queen - royalty from all over the world often holiday in Monte Carlo.

It's a place fit for a queen - royalty from all over the world often holiday in Monte Carlo.

Time your trip to one of the many sporting events Monaco is famed for hosting, including Circuit de Monaco, on which the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix takes place, world championship boxing bouts, the European Poker Tour Grand Final and the World Backgammon Championship as well as the Monaco International Auto Show (Salon International de l'Automobile de Monaco).

Granada

Moorish architecture of the Court of the Lions, the Alhambra, Granada.

Moorish architecture of the Court of the Lions, the Alhambra, Granada.

Largely revered for being the culinary geniuses behind tapas, or small share plates typically served with drinks, Granada is an incredibly vibrant inland city in Spain’s Andalusia region. The city is best discovered on foot though the winding narrow streets are largely run by the throng of scooters zipping in and out of traffic with silken ease. 

Tapas, or small share plates, usually come free with your drink.

Tapas, or small share plates, usually come free with your drink.

The Granadinos have the signature Spanish charm but actually speak a language known as andaluz due to the strong Arabic history in the city.

The Cathedral of Granada is the second-largest cathedral in Spain.

The Cathedral of Granada is the second-largest cathedral in Spain.

The seesaw of Catholic and Muslim reigns has created a rich tapestry in Spain’s history and it’s written all over the city of Granada – the Cathedral of Granada is a 16th century structure noted for the bright Renaissance interior. Head south of the cathedral and find yourself in Alcaiceria, a set of winding alleyways that held the Moorish silk market under Granada’s Muslim rule.

The alleyways of Alcaiceria are positively overflowing with leather goods, silks and handmade treasures.

The alleyways of Alcaiceria are positively overflowing with leather goods, silks and handmade treasures.

Feeling inspired? Right now you can fly, cruise and tour all of these underrated European locations with a once-in-a-lifetime Holland America Line package – visit cruisetravelcentre.com.au for details. 

This story was sponsored by Hunter Travel Group