Let’s be honest, the year of 2020 certainly thwarted our travel plans. The year we all thought we’d be exploring uncharted cites, marvelling in the hot sun, whilst relaxing on a beach or even counting down the days for that big family holiday away in Europe. Instead, this was the year where the entire world took one big breath and pretty much stood completely still after the immense earth-shake of the pandemic.
As 2021 is looking a little more hopeful for our lives to begin to return to normal, we’ve put together a great selection of some of our favourite emerging cities in Europe for you to check out and put on your radar for next year. From Poland’s enchanting and somewhat unheard of city of Bydgoszcz, to the medieval fairytale city of Mostar in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, these up-and-coming European cities should be at the top of your travel wishlist for the upcoming year of 2021!
Matera is the place to wander and get lost. It is Basilicata's hidden jewel. From magnificent natural limestone caves to gracious architecture, in the 1950s, Matera was regarded as the ‘Shame of Italy’ due to its poverty and living conditions. However, since then, this extraordinary environment has now been recognised as the European Capital of Culture in 2019. Not to mention, it’s the filming location for the most recent James Bond film.
Nestled within a remote corner of southern Italy, this emerging city is definitely one of the most unique and spectacular destinations to check out in 2021. Abandoned caves, ancient neighbourhoods (also known as Sassi), a series of limestone grottos, baroque churches and even more caves, Matera is a place of wonder, still possessing an air of being undiscovered. Roam through the labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets and uneven staircases, discover charming tiny courtyards, awe-inspiring views, and indulge in some tantalising local cuisine. Expect to truly sleep, eat, drink and view everything from inside caves—it’s a truly magnificent experience!
If there’s one place to put on your travel wishlist for 2021, it’s the magical Ljubljana. Voted the Green Capital of Europe in 2016, Slovenia’s charming capital is a traffic-free, pedestrian-friendly city, making it perfect to wander around and explore by foot without the stress and hassle of having to figure out any public transportation!
Ljubljana is adorned with stunning architecture, beautiful bridges, winding cobblestone streets and rich history nestled within every corner of the city. Roam through its largest park, Tivoli Park, indulge in the vast panoramic views over the city from the 11th century Castle, take a stroll along the glittering Ljubljanica River, celebrate local traditions at the Prešeren Square and discover the beguiled ambience that this enchanting city has to offer. Once you take a step into Ljubljana, you’ll feel like you’re wandering right into a fairytale storybook.
Discover a charming family-run boutique townhouse nestled right in the heart of the old city. Featuring wooden floors, neutral colour palettes, warm interiors and a welcoming hospitality, Lesar Hotel Angel is located down a quiet pedestrian street and is the perfect place to stay in this medieval city.
A place brimming with outstanding natural beauty, mesmerising Ottoman architecture and wide regard for its renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Stari Most, Mostar is one of our favourite destinations to put on your travel wish list next 2021. From traditional restaurants and market stalls to historic buildings and magical hidden landscapes just waiting to be explored, stepping into Bosnia and Herzegovina’s enchanting Mostar will make you feel as if you’re stepping into an old fairytale.
One of its most famous sites is the renowned Stari Most, a 16th century bridge honouring traditional Islamic architecture that crosses above the glittering turquoise Neretva River. Explore the heart of Mostar’s historic Old Town, discover the Blagaj Monastery nestled at the foot of a cliff face overlooking a natural pool of water, marvel at the peaceful yet magnificent Kravice Falls, and tantalise your tastebuds with some delicious local cuisine.
There’s something really dreamy about Vilnius. Filled with rare authenticity, Lithuania’s enchanting capital is one of our favourite cities we can’t wait to return to next year. The old town of Vilnius not only feels as if it has been taken out of a magical storybook, but it’s also a stunning UNESCO World Heritage Site—one of the largest surviving medieval old towns in northern Europe! From its spiralling cobblestone streets and awe-inspiring churches, to charming hidden cafes and petite guesthouses, find yourself on an incredible adventure here in the heart of Lithuania.
Vilnius is the representation of the perfect weekend away. Depending on the time of year, be sure to wear some comfy shoes, as you’re sure to be doing a lot of walking, particularly in the spring and summer months! Discover some of their nifty bars and restaurants, indulge in the abundance of history in the Jewish quarter, adorn your social media with charming morning coffee snaps in their thriving coffee shop scenes and capture some of their fantastic street art, including the famous comedic painting of Trump and Putin. Although this country is pretty flat in regards to its terrain, we highly recommend watching the sunset from the hill of Three Crosses—it’s an excellent place to watch the evening hues settle over the city.
Known as the Venice of Poland, Bydgoszcz is one of our favourite emerging cities in Europe. Completely shaped by its waterways, this charming city never fails to amaze its visitors. It’s vibrant, dynamic and brimming with activities and places waiting to be explored.
If there’s one place we highly recommend discovering when travelling to Bydgoszcz, it’s Mill Island—the most picturesque place in the city, where dainty bridges cross the River Brda and historic factories are surrounded by bright green lawns, perfect for a picnic in the summer! If you haven’t already guessed, this old town island is steeped in medieval history. Rent a bike and cycle along the glittering river (which extends all the way to Rotterdam!), indulge in the terracotta-coloured buildings and sloping Gothic rooftops, visit the Neo-Gothic water tower in the Szwederowo district, and marvel at the symphony of colours inside the 13th century Bydgoszcz Cathedral. Not to mention, be sure to spot the famous tightrope walker statue which stretches across the Brda River!
A sensational city nestled just an hour’s drive east of Prague, Kutná Hora holds Unesco World Heritage status due to its magnificent gothic architecture and baroque cathedral. With a history connecting to the 1142 Cisercian Monastery in Bohemia, and its silver trade in the 14th and 15th centuries, this city is one of the richest places in Europe. It also makes a great day trip to or from Prague.
This laidback, small city is the perfect place for a day trip. Rent a bike and explore its superb surroundings, visit the fascinating exhibitions and museums within residential houses, and discover the crown jewel of the city, the Cathedral of St. Barbara, and marvel at its 14th century Gothic architecture. We highly recommend you visit the unusual, bizarre, creepy yet slightly fascinating Sedlec Ossuary (also known as Bone Church), one of the most unique places in Europe. Weird, wonderful yet completely magical, Czech Republic’s Kutná Hora truly is a city you should put on your travel wishlist for next year.
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