We’re eager to explore some places that are just starting to appear on many travelers’ radars. With up and coming spots within Europe as the focus, the editors and members of travel website VirtualTourist.com compiled a list of the “Top 10 European Cities To See Now.”
• Lviv, Ukraine: Lviv, a city in Western Ukraine that’s become a modern business hub, is the spot VirtualTourist members unanimously agreed is the top European city to see now. Many of its highlights are found in an incredibly compact central area, making it the perfect place to explore on a weekend jaunt. Start in Rynok Square, the center of city, which is surrounded by almost 50 unique architectural monuments including the Kornyakt Palace, a Renaissance landmark. Visitors can’t miss the Lviv Opera House, a Neo-Renaissance treasure that is often compared to opera houses of Paris and Vienna.
• Hamburg, Germany: Located in Northern Germany on the Elbe River, Hamburg has been overshadowed by Berlin for far too long. With the diversity of being Germany’s second largest city and the outdoor opportunities of a metropolis on the water, Hamburg is primed for a great tourism boom. It provides both small-town qualities and big-city growth. You can stroll along Jungfernsteig on Alster Lake just as families have done throughout history or check out the city’s concert hall-in-the-making, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, in the buzzing neighborhood of HafenCity.
• Vilnius, Lithuania: Home to the largest Baroque old town in Eastern and Central Europe, Lithuania’s capital is a great destination for travelers interested in architecture. The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul is a Baroque masterpiece, with close to 2,000 stucco figures inside, and the pink facade of the Church of Saint Catherine makes it difficult to miss. Multiple VirtualTourist members recommend visiting St. John’s Church and its bell tower, and while Vilnius is famous for Baroque buildings, the gothic St. Anne’s Church is also a must-see. Another interesting spot, the Gates of Dawn, is a shrine within the sole surviving gate of the original five gates in the city wall; it houses an exceptional portrait of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
• Valencia, Spain: Only a short train ride from Barcelona, Valencia is finally coming into its own as Spain’s third largest city and a tourism destination in its own right. The city has a unique combination of historical sites and modern attractions. Near the Plaza de la Virgen, visitors can see a number of religious landmarks, such as the Catedral, which holds the Holy Chalice that according to tradition was used by Christ during the Last Supper. Another historical site is the Llotja de la Seda (Silk Exchange), a UNESCO Heritage Site and a great example of Gothic architecture that illustrates the important role the city has had in Mediterranean trade throughout history. Newer landmarks are Valencia-born “starchitect” Santiago Calatrava’s City of Arts and Sciences, a complex that includes an IMAX theatre, the largest aquarium in Europe, an interactive science museum, and a four-hall performance arts center.
• Porto, Portugal: Built into the hillsides that rise above the Douro River, Porto has long been a favorite among VirtualTourist travelers. Its historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage site and its wine is renowned the world over. Favorite spots among VirtualTourist members include strolling the Ribeira district along the waterfront, visiting the Cathedral or the Sao Bento railway station to view the azulejos (ceramic hand-painted tiles), and stopping by the Lello bookshop. There are also great new buildings to see in Porto including Rem Koolhaas’ Casa de Musica, which hosts classical music concerts every Sunday at noon for about $13.