15 Underrated Destinations in Central Europe to Consider Visiting

15 Underrated Destinations in Central Europe to Consider Visiting

Plenty of hidden gems lie in Central Europe, away from the spotlight of touristy cities. Here are some of them in countries such as Switzerland, Austria and Czech Republic.

Quick question! Which places come to mind when you hear the words ‘Holiday’ and ‘Europe’? London? Paris, perhaps? Or maybe the romantic city of Rome? I’m not surprised. After all, those are probably the most famous destinations in Europe and have been for quite a while.

But while all these mainstream destinations certainly have their own charms, there are plenty of other places in Europe which are just as attractive and fun! And I think it’s about time these hidden gems are unearthed and brought to centre stage!

So today, we’ll be looking at 15 underrated destinations in Central Europe which are well worth a visit!


1. Geneva

The second most populous city in Switzerland is often overlooked for more popular destinations like Zurich and Luzern when it comes to tourism but Geneva certainly has plenty to offer!

From admiring the mountainous backdrop to taking in the view of the city from the majestic Lake Geneva, Geneva is full of spectacular views and breathtaking scenery. Apart from housing the headquarters of the United Nations and CERN, Geneva is also home to numerous historical landmarks, such as Geneva Cathedral and Vielle Ville.

With such a deep history, Geneva is a cauldron of cultural diversity. This is best reflected in the everyday sights, sounds, and smells (I mean food, okay?) of the city. One activity I recommend is to take a walk around the town of Carouge and to visit its markets to soak in the atmosphere.

In an effort to boost tourism in the city, the local tourism organization has launched the Geneva Pass which entitles the holder to free public transport throughout the city and various discounts! Simply approach the reception at your accommodation and they’ll be able to hook you up!

2. Zermatt

destinations in central europe

For those looking to truly escape the city life, Zermatt is like a dream come true. The town which lies at the foot of Switzerland’s highest peaks generally prohibits the use of combustion engines, ensuring that the air stays crisp and fresh.

Combining long-standing traditions and modern tourism, the town centre of Zermatt is an area of contrasting sights best enjoyed via a slow-paced walking tour. The Gorner Gorge, located 15 minutes away (by walking) from the end of the village, is a place of unrivalled natural beauty that is sure to mesmerise any visitor!

However, Zermatt is best known as the gateway to the Gornergrat and the Matterhorn. While riding the Gornergrat Bahn is in itself an attraction, the best way to experience the journey to the top of the mountains is via the numerous hiking options. In particular, the 5-Seenweg, which takes hikers on a trail across five mountain lakes, rewards you with pristine views that will last you a lifetime, especially when the Matterhorn is perfectly reflected on the water’s surface during a clear day.  

3. Bern

destinations in central europe

Image credit: GenevaLife

With its cobbled streets, medieval fountains and arcades, Switzerland’s federal city is long overdue the recognition it deserves as one of the most beautiful cities in the country.

Surrounded by the Aare River and boasting medieval style architecture, Bern is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site that also serves as the seat of power in Switzerland. The ambient old town is best admired from the top of Bern Minster Cathedral, where you are rewarded with a panoramic view of the city. Also, be sure to visit the Federal Palace and the various museums in the city, such as the Albert Einstein Museum and the Paul Klee Centre.

And because Bern got its name from a bear in the forest (or at least that’s how the legend goes), it’s only fitting to pay a visit Barenpark, where you’ll be able to spot four cuddly bears roaming around in their grassy enclosures.


4. Graz

Image credit: Matthew Field

Here’s a fun fact for you: Graz was the European Capital of Culture for the year 2003. While it may not be as frequented by tourists as Vienna, Austria’s second largest city has plenty to offer for the wandering traveller.

The city’s most iconic landmark is the Kunsthaus Graz, an architectural masterpiece commemorating the city’s tenure as Europe’s Capital of Culture! A leisurely stroll around Altstadt Von Graz, one of the best preserved historical towns in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is always a fun activity, especially when local markets, like the historical Kaizer-Josef-Platz Market, are operating. What’s more, you can also visit Austria’s oldest museum, the Joanneum Quarter!

Graz is also home to the beautiful Schlossberg, a public park on a lush green hill in the heart of the city. At the peak stands the city’s iconic bell-tower, perfect for a panoramic view.

5. Vorarlberg

Image credit: bohringer Friedrich

In the westernmost part of Austria lies the beautiful province of Vorarlberg. With its picturesque valleys, quaint villages and the surrounding snow-capped mountains, Vorarlberg is a place that is easy to fall in love with instantly.

When in Vorarlberg, be sure to visit the serene Lake Constance and take in the surrounding scenery for a relaxing, quiet time. Music lovers will want to visit in the summer as the province plays host to multiple extravagant music festivals in places like Bregenz, Schwarzenberg, and Hohenems.    

For a view that’s out of this world, be sure to ride the lifts and cable cars up Lech Zürs am Arlberg. While most people go there to ski in the winter, the summer and autumn months see an influx of passionate hikers looking to enjoy the amazing scenery. In addition, the picturesque villages in the Brandnertal Valley are perfect for scenic walkabouts with loved ones.

6. Innsbruck

Image credit: James Cridland

Hidden amongst the Austrian Alps is the alpine city of Innsbruck, a true gem of a destination for natural alpine scenery.

The city’s main attractions is the Innsbrucker Nordkette, a cable car ride which ferries visitors to Austria’s largest natural park, Nordkette. It is an amazing way to view some of the most beautiful sights of Innsbruck’s mountainous scenery. You could also hop on the funicular towards the Hungerberg District located over 800 metres above sea level. There, you are treated to a jaw-dropping view of the central Inn Valley. On a clear day, you could even catch a glimpse over the Italian border!

Back on the ground, the Old Town of Innsbruck is an ambient part of the city, with 500-year-old buildings helping preserve the history of the city! Other notable attractions include the Alpine Zoo, Hofburg Imperial Palace, and the Swarovski Crystal World, among other wonderful places to explore!


7. Vaduz

Image credit: Michael Gredenberg

Vaduz is the capital of Liechtenstein, a country landlocked between Switzerland and Austria so small that some people have never even heard of it before. That is a shame, given the wide array of things one can see and do here.

Vaduz Castle, built atop a hill overlooking the city, is the current home of the Prince of Liechtenstein and its beauty can be admired from almost anywhere in Vaduz.  While visitors aren’t allowed, you can certainly visit the vineyards to sample some wine from the prince’s own cellar!

Das Stadtle is a beautiful pedestrian street which makes up the city centre where you’ll be able to enjoy the best local cuisine and explore the fine arts of the city at Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein.

One must also visit the Old Rhine Bridge connecting Liechtenstein to neighbouring Switzerland. Here, you can see exactly where the border divides the two nations and also admire the view of the majestic Rhine River.  

8. Malbun and Steg

Image credit: Clemens V Vogelsang 

The alpine regions of Malbun and Steg are found near the village of Triessenburg and are THE go-to spots for skiing during the winter months in Liechtenstein.

At an altitude of almost 1.6 kilometres, visitors to Malbun are treated to spectacular views of the Rhine Valley and of Vaduz. Because Liechtenstein is not as popular as Switzerland when it comes to skiing, the alpine regions here retain more of their pristine natural beauty, promising great views and lesser crowds, perfect for beginners learning to ski.

Steg, on the other hand, is located in alluring Valunatal Valley and offers no less than four amazing cross-country ski routes. Similarly to Malbun, there are a number of ski schools here with seasoned skiers ready to show newcomers the ropes.

In the summer months, both Steg and Malbun offer various hiking trails, such as through the Valünatal and Naaftal, where you get to enjoy even more of Liechtenstein’s untouched natural beauty!


9. Budapest

Image credit: Jorge Franganillo

Unlike most other cities on this list, Budapest is actually pretty well-known despite often being overlooked for other European destinations. Needless to say, the city that is touted as one of the most beautiful in Europe is a must-visit for any traveler.

One of the best views in Budapest is of the Parliament Building from across the Danube River. Speaking of the Danube, Danube Promenade is perfect for an evening stroll to admire the view of the city and its monuments such as Buda Castle, Gellert Hill, and the Fisherman’s Bastion. And in the middle of the Danube is Margaret Island, a 2.5km long recreational park for those who wish to escape the confines of the city.

Beyond the romantic setting of the city, Budapest is also the place for many fun activities, such as taking a dip in the hot springs at the Gellert Baths, or catching a performance at the historical State Opera House!

Czech Republic

10. Kutna Hora

Image credit: Ptrantina

Located a mere 45 minutes away from Prague is Kutna Hora, once considered the richest city in Europe before its silver mines fell into ruin in the late 16th century.

Built around a 12th century monastery, Kutna Hora is home to many interesting historical sites, making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Among its most popular landmarks is the Sedlec Ossuary, a church where the interior is decorated by the human bones of over 40,000 people! Yikes! Apart from that, the gothic Cathedral of St. Barbara is another iconic structure in the city, preserving the city’s historical roots and offering a fine view from its terraces.

Other noteworthy locations include the Czech Museum of Silver which details the rise and fall of the city’s silver mines, and Barborska Street, an elevated street surrounding a 17th century former Jesuits’ College which offers splendid views of the valley below.

11. Kromeriz

destinations in central europe

Image credit: Bjalek Michal

The city of Kromeriz in the province of Moravia has been around for a very long time, having been founded in the year 1260! Most of the city’s buildings today date back to the 17th century, when it was rebuilt after seeing its fair share of suffering in the Thirty Years’ War.

Those dark times are well and truly over as Kromeriz is affectionately recognized as one of the most charming historical cities in the Czech Republic! Park Kvetna Zahrada (a.k.a the Kromeriz Gardens) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and when the flowers bloom in the summer, visitors are treated to an unforgettable ensemble of colours and lovely fragrances. The Archbishop’s Chateau is another important historical monument, with its 84 metre baroque tower being the main attraction.

One should also definitely tour about the lovely Kromeriz Town Square and stop by the Cerny Orel Brewery for a taste of authentic Moravian cuisine.

12. Brno

Image credit: VnGrijl

Less than an hour away from Kromeriz is Brno, the second largest city of the Czech Republic that is also affectionately known as the Hidden Heart of Europe thanks to its abundance of historical monuments and international community.

While there are less visitors here compared to Prague, Brno is a cauldron of cultural activity punctuated by beautiful natural scenery and heritage sites. Brno Lake is the city’s largest recreational park and a hub of activity all year round, with amazing cultural events during the summer months. Veveri and Spilberk are the incumbent castles that showcase the history of Brno.  

Namesti Svobody is Brno’s main city square and where you’ll be able to sample fine wines and delicious local cuisine. An interesting monument here is the black stone “astronomical clock” which dispenses a marble at 11am daily which visitors can keep as a souvenir.


13. Bratislava

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Bratislava is arguably Slovakia’s most visited city but even so, it only sees a little over a million visitors a year. In contrast, its Austrian neighbour, Vienna, sees 15 million on average.

Combining natural scenery and modern city life, there’s plenty to discover in Bratislava. As with most European cities, the best place to start is on the cobbled streets of the Old Town, featuring medieval architecture, quaint alleys and atmospheric cafes.

Bratislava Castle, which sits atop an inclined plane, is the most eye-catching building in the entire city and visible from every corner. It’s said that on a clear day, you can even see as far as Austria from atop the towers! Elsewhere, the Sculpture Park behind the presidential palace is a quirky recreational park which is perfect to unwind and just people-watch throughout the day. For those who have the time, it’s also highly recommended to plan a day trip to the nearby Devin Castle.


14. Torun

Image credit: DerHexer

The city of Torun on the shores of the Vistula River is consistently hailed as one of the most beautiful cities in Poland and for good reason.

Founded by the Teutonic Knights, Torun is a colourful city with much of the city’s gothic architecture remaining untouched. Start off by paying a visit to the Old Town, where you can find the ruins of the Teutonic Knights’ Castle.

For more remnants of the city’s past, visit the old Town Hall which houses a large display of gothic art. Climb the towers for a panoramic view of the Torun cityscape. The mammoth Cathedral of Torun is another must-visit to soak in the rustic charms of this city.

Torun is also the city of gingerbread! As such, make sure to stop by the Gingerbread Museum to discover the history of this city’s favourite sweet and to sample gingerbread-infused beverages in the local cafes and bars!

15. Gdansk

The coastal city of Gdansk is Poland’s main seaport and one of the most important historical cities in all of Europe. After all, many claim that Gdansk was the site of the first battle of World War II.

These days however, Gdansk is more widely known for its many festivals such as the biannual Sounds of the North Festival and the yearly St. Dominic’s Fair which sees a large number of merchants operating a large market in the heart of the city in addition to many cultural events and performances.

In terms of historical monuments, the Royal Way and Mariacka Street are two of the most popular locations in the old town, with stunning architecture and cultural landmarks aplenty. In addition, the 15th century St. Mary’s Church and the Abbots’ Palace in Oliwa Park are also part of the city’s most beautiful sights.

Fresh Alternatives

So there you have it! The next time you’re planning a trip to Europe, you should consider substituting London or Paris for one of the cities on this lovely little list. They may not be as famous, but believe me, they’ll be just as fun and enriching as a travel experience!

About Author

Darren Yeoh
Darren Yeoh

Darren enjoys the finer things in life and loves exploring unfamiliar places on foot, guided with nothing but instinct and a good-old fashioned map. He enjoys cultural experiences and exciting adventures and is not a stranger to travelling alone. When he's not putting his travel experiences into words, he's probably sitting behind his laptop, planning his upcoming adventure.


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